Religion and Economic Action: A Critique of Max Weber

Religion and Economic Action: A Critique of Max Weber

Religion and Economic Action: A Critique of Max Weber

Religion and Economic Action: A Critique of Max Weber

Excerpt

Historical controversy is the life-blood of historical writing. Without it, history becomes dogma. To the layman the process of controversy may sometimes appear as a peevish squabble of pedants, and to the professionals variously as a disturbing revelation of X's carelessness, Y's bad temper or Z's tendency to make his generalisations too bold to be good. But if history is to remain alive it must secure at least periodic freedom from the lethal benedictions of accepted authority. And whatever may have happened to Max Weber's theories about the influence upon economic life of Protestantism in general and Puritanism in particular, nobody could say they were dead or claim that they had passed unchallenged or unsupported. It is a tribute to the continuing fascination of the subject that in half a century it should have attracted contributions from many countries: Sombart and Brentano in Germany, Robertson and Tawney in England, Fanfani in Italy, Talcott Parsons in America -- to mention only a few of the better-known names.

The very fact of the continuing influence of Weber's hypotheses is in itself a tribute, be it to their truth or to some deepseated appeal which they possess. For in spite of much damaging criticism, of refutations and counter-refutations, the belief in some sort of influence wielded by Puritanism on capitalism is still strong and pervasive. At the present time it is probably more in favour in the United States than in Britain, and perhaps more amongst historically-minded sociologists than amongst historians. But this is partly a matter of degree and of timing. For there can be little doubt that much of this continuing influence emanates from that generalized and modified version . . .

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