New PDF release: Concepts of Social Stratification: European and American

By Andreas Hess (auth.)

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Yet, in contrast to Marx, Weber illustrated in his classic study The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism that ideas could be a major force in history (1946: 302–22). He demonstrated that it was the Protestant work ethic and particularly the Calvinists’ belief in leading an ascetic life which directly contributed to the emergence of modern capitalism. According to Weber, Calvinism was based on the commitment to hard work and the rejection of worldly pleasures. Because the believer spent little or no money, he was in a position that allowed him to save and accumulate capital – capital which could later be invested into capitalist enterprises.

Furthermore, through observing the developing American democracy, Weber’s thesis on 34 Concepts of Social Stratification the Protestant spirit being at the root of the development of capitalism was also affirmed. Weber’s arguments went full circle: Weber did not only get a glimpse of the future but also of the past – which in turn had an impact on Weber’s analysis and interpretation of present day America. He writes: ‘It can be demonstrated that everywhere, including Europe, the religiosity of the ascetist sects has for several centuries worked in the same way as has been illustrated … for the case of America’ (1946: 312).

Circles of groups which have not been Emile Durkheim, Georg Simmel & Ferdinand Tönnies 45 in contact before begin to overlap and to blend with each other: ‘… a need and an inclination (arises) to reach out beyond the original spatial, economic, and mental boundaries of the group and, in connection with the increase in individualisation and concomitant mutual repulsion of group elements, to supplement the original centripetal forces of the lone group with a centrifugal tendency that forms bridges with other groups’ (1971: 253).

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