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Capitalism and Christianity: Weber’s capitalist spirit and potential Christian influences

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  1. Introduction
  2. Weber and Marx: A comparative framework
  3. The existence of material precursors of capitalism
  4. Capitalistic enterprise and the contemporary capitalist system
  5. The modern capitalist
  6. Calvin's main innovation
  7. God's omnipotence and predestination
  8. Science and rationalism
  9. The nexus of both ideational and material
  10. The core similarity between Calvinist and Mitchellian interpretations of Christianity
  11. The spirituality of Mitchellism
  12. Mitchellism's impact on the economy
  13. Conclusion
  14. Bibliography

The questions of what is capitalism and how did it arise have been of central concern to Western economists and sociologists since the 1840s. At that time, commentators began to recognize that a fundamentally new economic and social order ? with the expansion of machines in manufacturing and changes in the character and composition of social classes ? was emerging. Among the most influential of these commentators were Marx and Engels, who sought to explain the processes of this new system and to explain its emergence as part of a larger historical narrative. The emergence of capitalism, according to Marx, could be explained by a process of class competition whereby the contemporary period was distinguished by domination of the bourgeoisie, who used their power to further their economic interests. Marx embedded this analysis in his theory of an historical dialectic, the competition of opposites, primarily driven by material factors. For Marxists, political, social, and cultural arrangements and views are derivative of economic and material realities. The political and ideational composed a ?superstructure? which emerged only after, or were created by, capitalist economic practices and relationships

[...] Overall consumption would likely go down, and the desire and imperative for economic growth would diminish as improving material wealth would no longer be a priority. Identifying how Mitchellism might impact the economy is not the same as saying that it will, however. Just as Calvinism and the capitalist spirit in their infancy, such a spirituality would likely be rejected by the vast majority of people at first. Unlike the capitalist spirit, however, Mitchellism would not impose economic imperatives on non-believers to adopt a Mitchellist set of behaviors. [...]

[...] That this ethos the capitalist spirit gave birth to a full-fledged social and economic system does not follow simply from its emergence as a coherent spirituality. Weber, again emphasizing the historically highly unexpected development of this system, argues that this ethos struggled to emerge and justify itself against the more traditional ideologies and the almost universal scorn heaped upon those who pursue endless accumulation. This ideology only came to dominance thanks in part to other external events to which it at best tangentially if at all contributed to. [...]

[...] Weber finds the religious motivations for capitalist behavior in two key Protestant ideas the calling and worldly asceticism. While Lutheranism contains elements of a calling, the more important branch of Protestantism is that influenced by John Calvin. Calvin is perhaps the key figure in the Protestant Reformation. While Luther is certainly historically significant for breaking the political- religious dominance of Roman Catholicism, his thought is far less radical than Calvin's and still contains a fair degree of mysticism. In Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin launches a thoroughgoing rationalization of religion seeking to purge mysticism and contradiction. [...]

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