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Work in the calling in Max Weber's Protestant ethic thesis

Description: Objectives. Scholars have debated Max Weber's theory of the relationship between religion and capitalism for almost 100 years. Still, the debate is clouded by confusion over Weber's claims about religious doctrine and over the supporting evidence. The purpose of this study is to clarify Max Weber's claims regarding the concept of the calling and the related "anti-mammon" injunction and concept of "good works" and substantiate with historical evidence the religious doctrine Weber describes. Methods. Comparative analysis of early Protestant Lutheran and Calvinist documents from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was used to flesh out a history of ideas to determine whether evidence exists to support Weber's claims related to religious doctrine. Results. Historical analyses revealed that the concept of the calling pre-dated Luther in the Bible. Luther's innovation was not in his use of the word beruf but in his application of the concept of the calling to the common people and his teaching of that idea. The idea of sanctified work was key in both Lutheran and Calvinist documents. There was an increased emphasis on work and encouragement to accumulate wealth in Calvinist documents. Conclusion. Weber's etymological evidence surrounding Martin Luther's use of the word beruf in his German translation of the bible is idiosyncratic and not important to the transmission of the concept of the calling. Luther's application of the concept of the calling to the laity and idea of sanctified work, however, is the foundation on which the Protestant ethic rests, as Weber claims. Weber's other claims regarding the concept of work in early Protestantism are also supported here. Weber did not overstate the implications for societal transformation in early Protestant theology.
Date: December 2000
Creator: Schindley, Wanda Beatrice Higbee