The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Synopsis

This brilliant analysis of the intimate relation between Protestant ethics and some of the leading features of modern industrialism brings many important but neglected aspects of our economic life into sharp relief and establishes many unsuspected relationships. It is one of the most widely discussed contributions to the social sciences which this century has produced in Germany.

Excerpt

A product of modern European civilization, studying any problem of universal history, is bound to ask himself to what combination of circumstances the fact should be attributed that in Western civilization, and in Western civilization only, cultural phenomena have appeared which (as we like to think) lie in a line of development having universal significance and value.

Only in the West does science exist at a stage of development which we recognize to-day as valid. Empirical knowledge, reflection on problems of the cosmos and of life, philosophical and theological wisdom of the most profound sort, are not confined to it, though in the case of the last the full development of a systematic theology must be credited to Christianity under the influence of Hellenism, since there were only fragments in Islam and in a few Indian sects. In short, knowledge and observation of great refinement have existed elsewhere, above all in India, China, Babylonia, Egypt. But in Babylonia and elsewhere astronomy lacked—which makes its development all the more astounding—the mathematical foundation which it first received from the Greeks. The Indian geometry had no rational proof; that was another product of the Greek intellect, also the creator of mechanics and physics. The Indian natural sciences, though well developed in observation, lacked the method of experiment, which was, apart from beginnings in antiquity, essentially a product of the Renaissance, as was the modern laboratory. Hence medicine, especially in India, though highly developed . . .

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