Saturday, February 6, 2010

Comment on The Protestant Ethic and the "Spirit" of Capitalism

Quotes that I found of particular interest from The Protestant Ethic and the "Spirit" of Capitalism and Other Writings, Max Weber, 1905, Penguin.

"The Puritans wanted to be men of the calling -- we, on the other hand, must be. For when asceticism moved out of the monastic cells and into working life, and began to dominate innerworldly morality, it helped to build that mighty cosmos of the modern economic order (which is bound to the technical and economic conditions of mechanical and machine production). Today this mighty cosmos determines, with overwhelming coercion, the style of life not only of those directly involved in business but of every individual who is born into this mechanism, and may well continue to do so until the day that the last ton of fossil fuel has been consumed" p 120
In consideration of our being told often enough (in the USA) what our personal portion is of the national debt, and in line w/ a theme oft repeated by by my timber framer friend as to our having lost connection w/ hands-on trades work with the rise of industrial factories. And to all those who try so valiantly to drop-out of the mechanism. Note to self: We do, so far, exist within a closed-system earth.
"German-American families, who have lived for more than a generation in Brooklyn, which, unlike "New York proper," is regarded as "pious," still have problems when it comes to forming more intimate relations with the old-established residents. Among these problems is how to give a satisfactory, as opposed to a merely "formal," answer to the inevitable question: To what church do you belong? Even today it is perfectly normal for a land speculator, wishing to see his sites occupied, to build a "church," that is, a wooden shed with a tower, looking for all the world like something out of a box of toys, and to employ a young graduate just out of a seminary run by some denomination or other for five hundred dollars as its pastor. He will come to an agreement, spoken or unspoken, that this position will be a life-long post provided only that he can soon succeed in "preaching the building sites full." And usually he does succeed." p 204
Interesting in respect of geographic community based on religious identity, Brooklyn being pious in comparison to Manhattan, wooden sheds with a tower, and what is it that we intend to preserve in these old churches -- the built shed or a celebratory memory of the social and economic forces behind how the sheds with towers came to be in the first place? Note: Quaker houses & such in Flushing, Queens.
"...when Methodist workers in the eighteenth century were the object of hatred and persecution from their fellow workers, this was not due at all, or at least not primarily, to their religious eccentricities -- England had seen plenty of these, some of which were more conspicuous. In fact, the frequent destruction of their tools, of which we read in reports of the time, suggests that they were targeted because they were excessively "keen to work," as we might put it today." p 18
So, if the spirit of capitalism is associated w/ the inward asceticism of Protestants then where does the union solidarity that "no worker will exceed the common output of the many" stem from? Just asking. I understand, though have not quite grasped, that Weber provided a sociological-based counter to theories of Marxian materialism.

My specific interest in the history of Methodism is that I was brought up one week in the Methodist Church and the next week in the Baptist Church. There was a two-room school building in between. They both preached a whole lot how the other sect was going to hell. The dichotomy will still give me nightmares. In the end I rejected both as being somewhat nutso, but as I grow older as a Theocratic Anarchist I more and more appreciate that a reaction to various religious perversions is conditioned by the background and root of our early education and the threads of family ancestry.

One grandfather, whom I spent a good deal of time following about, was a Congregational lay minister and an electrician, the other a Master finish carpenter (specialist in spiral staircases) who enjoyed the Bible reading sessions of the Witnesses who would knock on his door.

As I do not proscribe to any of the popular cults, leastways willing to attend nearly any service for the enlightenment and entertainment value, I am often assumed to not be a religious. In honesty to myself this is hardly exactly the bottom of that story.

1 comment: