In Max Weber’s quest to explain his observations of the major social and economic changes he was subject to throughout his life from 1864 to 1920, the importance of rationalization in modernity was emphasised. For Weber his personal focus on the coming of modernity begins with the industrial revolution of the late 18th century. Weber’s thesis explaining ‘the emergence of modern capitalism would thus be an explanation of modernity’ (Collins and Makowsky 2005: 121). Weber attributed ‘the Protestant ethic’, in particular the Calvinism strain of Protestantism as a fundamental requirement for the emergence of the ‘spirit of capitalism’. For it were the individualistic, systematic and rationalised conduct and values of the protestant ethic that
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According to Calvin “Each man was duty bound to consider himself chosen and to reject all doubt as temptation of the devil... a sign of insufficient faith. To attain self confidence, work in a calling was recommended,” (Bendix 1966: 60). This work offered the opportunity for success and ‘The attainment of it (wealth) as a fruit of labour in a calling was a sign of God’s blessing (Weber 1998: 172). For many this would be the equivalent to a sign that they are one of the elect, predestined to be saved. Furthermore, the negative ethical beliefs surrounding wealth ensured religious values of the Protestants weren’t overridden. The religious doctrines maintained the idea that ‘profits or riches were not to be spent self indulgently but saved and reinvested, here is the discovery of the world as a rational, useful creation (Weber and Eldridge 1971: 44). This attributed to the values of methodically, rationalized and ethical conduct, especially in work that promotes the glory of God on earth.
The rationalized, methodical attitude derived from the protestant ethic is a huge influence in the success of economic application. It is the key characteristics of the protestant ethic that harbour the spirit of capitalism. The synthesis of these characteristics revolve around the’ values of saving and reinvestment, emphasis on hard work, individual pursuit of spiritual or material success and slow accumulation of small gains through expansion of mass production,’ (Weber 1998: