Monday, July 23, 2018

Max Weber: Protestant Ethic Revisited

Poor With Us Always?
Christianity Today

Lincoln Lau and Bruce Wydick tell us that "The 'Protestant Work Ethic' Really Does Fight Poverty (Christianity Today, July/August 2018). I have cut-and-pasted from their report:
[Max Weber famously argued that] Protestant religious beliefs led inevitably to Europe's work ethic, to its attitude toward wealth and specialized labor — and, in short, to modern capitalism: Europe experienced economic growth largely because of its Protestant beliefs.

A randomized controlled trial by leading development economists, among 320 villages and 6,276 low-income families in the Philippines, provides a scientifically rigorous test of the causal effects of Christian beliefs on economic outcomes . . . . The results . . . appear to confirm that the Protestant ethic causes economic change. Participants in the study who were randomly selected for a curriculum teaching Christian values subsequently showed increases in household income relative to a control group. The implications of this pioneering study could be vital for Christians and others trying to do effective work among the poor. This is a reminder that teaching Christian doctrine and values does not need to be separated from community development. In fact, combining the two may have better results.

Protestants can rejoice. There is a healthy biblical balance to the Protestant ethic (see, for example, Col. 3:23 and Eph. 4:28) . . . . At the same time, a biblical understanding of human agency, and its possibilities and responsibilities, has helped reverse the fatalism that is often associated with poverty in the developing world.
This report is interesting to me because one of the first monographs I read in grad school was Weber's Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which was also linked to the rise of science and technology in the West, partly due to the work of the sociologist Robert K. Merton. Works such as these come around and around . . .

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At 12:18 PM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Weber strikes me as a(nother) Prussian technocrat seeking to advance big corporate hegemony... promoting statism as a tool for elites, etc.

Has this thesis(or something like it) been written about?

At 1:18 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Read Weber and see that he is the critic more than the advocate - read this article, which mentions the point.

Jeffery Hodges

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