Sunday, July 19, 2015

“Max Weber: Religion and Culture Interwoven”
Max Weber (1864-1920) was a German cultural theorist and considered as one of the founders of modern academic sociology. He endorsed the principle of verstehen (understanding) and of formalized ideal types in religion. In his revolutionary and widely debated book “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” he presents the “Weber thesis” that the Protestant teachings is what created the current form of business in the modern era. I enjoyed reading Weber’s writings and I was puzzled by some aspects of it.
Based on the statement “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings” (Prov. Xxii, 29) Weber explains translates into business in the form of “the earning of money within the modern economic order is, so long as it is done legally, the result and the expression of virtue and proficiency in a calling; and this virtue and proficiency are […] the alpha and the omega of Franklin’s ethics.” So he compares this to Marx and Engels writings and I wonder about the consistency of this parallelism. In Weber’s thesis money can be acquired by all and so it is not static and reserved to those already rich. In a way here almost heralds the creation of the middle class, described as: “The ideal type of the capitalistic entrepreneur… avoids orientation and unnecessary expenditure, as well as conscious enjoyment of his power, and is embarrassed by the outward signs of the social recognition which he receives.”
“When the limitation of consumption is combined with the release of acquisitive activity, the inevitable practical result is obvious: the accumulation of capital through the ascetic compulsion to save”. So it is a religious belief that started the obsession of saving and of becoming rich and of transcending through the classes.  I wonder then why it is then that the whole society was shaped this way in the 20th century. Was it because the founding fathers of the United States came from a protestant school of thought and ethics? Was the culture really so influenced though this religious dogma?
Another point that makes me want to discuss Weber further is his distinction between authority that stems from magic, institution and charisma. I see his distinctions that are presented on what is a charismatic leader of religion and what can be defined in this paradigm, “the priesthood is distinct from “practitioners of magic” and the ‘prophet is a purely individual bearer of charisma, who by virtue of his mission proclaims a religious doctrine or divine commandment.” And “the prophet like the magician exerts his power simply by virtue of his personal gifts. Unlike the magician however, the prophet claims definite revelation and in the core of his mission is doctrine and commandment, not magic.” This resonates very strongly with me as a theory. In my view of the world I have found that I have been able to join these exalted states described by many as the peace and quiet and love of the absolute truth. I have found that the path I dare to see in and out is very busy with many experiences that transcend the senses and expand them, the desirable state in my experience though is characterized by a sense of peace and quiet and love. Once there the path seemed busy and almost unnecessary but it seems that most people want to talk and understand that path. Because once there, there is nothing to say or nothing to talk about. It all just is and that absolute certainty is also in the quiet of what it promises.

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