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UCI EUROST 10 - Max Weber

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Professor Smith European Studies Department Europe Studies 10 European History Course Code: 24000 ● Max Weber ○ The Protestant Work Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism ● Last time we looked at key aspects of Luther’s theology ○ Faith, grace, and scripture, not works ○ Christian is “free, yet servant” ○ Twofold nature of man: spiritual and temporal ○ Twofold relation to authority: ■ spiritually free from law, temporally beholden to it ● Last time we also looked at some consequences of the Reformation ○ 1. The schism of Christendom ○ 2. The Reformation and the new media ○ 3. The Peasant Rebellions ○ 4. A new notion of the self; birth of “modern subjectivity”; “hope through despair” ● Consequence 5: Luther’s (Protestantism’s) influence on capitalism? ○ Man is of “two natures‘ - spirit and body ○ The body is inherently sinful ○ It is subject to the law, although it can never live up to it ■ In the earthly realm, we are therefore “duty-bound” and “servants” ○ Through our bodily actions (works), we can never “save” our souls ■ The best we can do is fight a never-ending battle to control our sinful selves - through WORK ○ Sense of duty and work: ■ “thus it comes that from the requirements of his own body a man cannot take his ease, but is compelled on its account to do many good works, that he may bring it into subjection. Yet these works are not the means of his justification before god, he does them out of disinterested love to the service of god; looking to no other end to do what is well-pleasing to him whom he desires to obey dutifully in all things” (120) ■ That is, work and duty for their own sakes ○ “That he might not be unemployed, god gave him the business of keeping and cultivating paradise...” ■ “That he may not be idle...” ● Why work? Not to be justified but as a sign that one is justified/saved ○ “He will fast, watch, and labor...” (120) ○ “Thus, a christian, being consecrated by his faith, does good works; but he is not by these works made a more sacred person, or more a christian” (121)○ “True then are these two sayings; god works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works. Bad works do not make a bad man, but a bad man does bad works” (121) ● A peculiar dynamic: from “poverty” to great “riches”... ○ “Now when a man has through the precepts been taught his own impotence, and become anxious by what means he may satisfy the law - for the law must be satisfied, so that no jot or tittle of it may bass away; otherwise he must be hopelessly condemned - then, being truly humbled and brought to nothing in his own eyes, he finds in himself no resource for justification and salvation. Then comes in that other part of scripture, the promises of god, which declare the glory of god...” (109) ○ “Lo! My god, without merit on my part, of his pure and free mercy, has given to me, an unworthy, condemned, and contemptible creature, all the riches of justification and salvation in christ, so that i no longer am in want of anything...” ○ A fair exchange: ■ “but when god sees that truth is ascribed to him, and that in the faith of our hearts, he is honored with all the honor of which he is worthy; then in return he honors us on account of that faith...” (111) ○ “This is a spiritual power, which rules in the midst of enemies, and is powerful in the midst of distress. And this is nothing else than that strength is made perfect in my weakness, and that i can turn all things to the profit of my salvation” (115) ○ “Christ, that rich amd pious husband, takes as a wife a needy and impious harlot, redeeming here from all her evils, and supplying her with all his good things” (113) ○ That is, we are inherently sinners and rely on god’s/christ’s grace as a “gift” ■ Luther is clearly referring to the spiritual realm ○ But what if people read “good things” and “riches” and “profit” more literally? Would my success in life not perhaps be a sign of my salvation? ○ Question for you to ponder: do americans tend to believe that if you’re rich it’s a sign you’re somehow better, or conversely, that if you’re poor it’s somehow your “fault”? ○ Also, psychological experiments showing that people who win a game like monopoly tended to think it reflected something good (“justified”) about them… ● The “Protestant Work Ethic” ○ It is our duty to work, even though our works don’t help toward salvation ■ We work to “subject” our bodily desires ○ We work for the sake of work ○ A special and paradoxical dynamic: ■ we can’t do anything for salvation, but want a sign that we are saved ○ And thus, given the great “despair” we have, we are driven to work, work, work in the hope that it will be a sign that we are worthy of “riches” ● “Spirit of Capitalism” ○ How ideas from the 16th century which have nothing to do explicitly with the economy nonetheless can create a culture ripe for capitalism○ Weber’s approach goes to the heart of what we’re investigating in this course: how apparently distant historical ideas and phenomena helped shape our modern world ○ There’s a good reason to learn about things like Lutheran theology, the holy roman empire, the thirty years war ● Max Weber ○ 1864-1920 ○ Founding father of sociology ○ Focused on interpretive approaches, not just empirical and quantitative ● Dominant Theory: ○ Marxism ■ 1818-1883 ■ Economic forces of production explain developments in society, law, culture ■ Economic “basis” vs ideological “superstructure”; ideas merely reflect economic reality and the interests of the dominant class ■ “Economic determinism” ■ History = class conflict ● Weber vs Marx(ism)? ○ “In the title of this study is used the somewhat pretentious phrase, the spirit of capitalism” ○ Why “pretentious phrase” ○ “Spirit” seems like an abstract entity for a scientist to be interested in… ○ Yet certainly still a historical materialist or empirical scientist (2nd paragraph: “a complex of elements associated in historical reality”) ○ So he will have to show that the “spirit of capitalism” is such a “complex of elements associated in historical reality” ○ But, Weber rejects “naive historical materialism, that such ideas originate


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