does the protestant ethic matter?

24 07 2017

The 500th anniversary of Luther’s nailing of the theses to the church door has prompted some interesting writing about the Weber thesis and the possible connection between Protestantism and the rise of capitalism.

orgtheory.net

Elizabeth Bruenig has a long review in The Nation on three recent book on Martin Luther, talking about, among other things, how Protestantism set the stage for capitalism and modernity.  The piece, weirdly, doesn’t mention Max Weber at all, or the later questions about whether Weber was right about the Protestant Ethic forming capitalism.

For what it’s worth, it’s pretty unclear if Protestantism did form capitalism, particularly through the disciplinary mechanisms Weber describes. Though it does seem fair to say-and Bruenig nods at this-that Protestantism was actually a series of reforms and internal changes to Christian Europe’s understanding of the self and its relationship to larger organizations and institutions. Most historians of the reformation and church history have the dividing line not really at the 95 theses but at earlier changing understandings of confession and homilies, both of which emphasizes the relevance of the individual believer as an actor in…

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