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A Macat Analysis of Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

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Born in Prussia in 1864, just as the new forces of capitalism and the Industrial Revolution took hold of the economy, Max Weber first studied law. Yet his interest soon shifted to economics. Perhaps because his mother had absorbed Protestant influences, Weber examined the role morality played in the lives people choose to lead. He focused on the differences in economic behavior between Catholics and Protestants.

Weber was the first to identify beliefs and practices that influenced economic behavior. He found Catholics generally less motivated to succeed in business than Protestants because of their religious belief that everyone could achieve salvation. The branch of Protestants known as Calvinists, on the other hand, believed God determined everyone's salvation status before birth. Nothing a person might do on earth could save a soul marked for damnation. Left with little hope, believers tried to demonstrate their worthiness through hard work. Weber identified with these self-reliant Puritans and his groundbreaking argument helped establish him as one of the founding fathers of sociology.

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