The Sociology of Religion: Economy and Society
I HAVE POINTED out that it was not Weber's intention to reverse the doctrine of historical materialism in order to substitute a causality of religious forces for the causality of economic forces. What was essential in his eyes, and I believe in the eyes of his commentators, was the analysis of a religious conception of the world, and of an attitude taken toward existence by men interpreting their situation in the light of a religious conception. What he wanted to show above all was the affinity—intellectual, spiritual, existential if you will—between an interpretation of Protestantism and a certain form of economic behavior. On the basis of this affinity between the spirit of capitalism and the Protestant ethic, he shows how a way of conceiving the world orients action in the world. At the same time he explains in a positive and, as it were, scientific style, how values, ideas, and beliefs influence human behavior and thus how the causality of religion or religious ideas operates throughout history. The point is not to suppose that man prefers his ideas to his interests, but to understand that what we call interest is determined by our image of the world. In a sense, there is nothing more self-interested than a desire for redemption or salvation; men's conception of salvation determines what they regard as their interest.
The other studies in religious sociology which Weber devoted to