Posted in A2 Sociology: Religion

A2: Paragraph exemplar

Social change

Like Neo-Marxists such as Otto Maduro and Antonio Gramsci, Max Weber agreed that most of the time religious beliefs and organisations are indeed a barrier to social change. However, his contention is that if the conditions are right, religion has the capacity to contribute to significant social change. Weber’s ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ argues that Protestantism and in particular, Calvinism was a vital reason why capitalism developed. Weber contends that because Calvinists believed in predestination, they therefore suffered from salvation panic. Unsurprisingly, many of them wanted to know if they were lucky enough to have been chosen as one of the select few who would enter heaven. Thus, in order to ascertain whether or not they had been chosen, they chose to try and prove it during their life time and the best way to do that was to work as hard as possible, be aesthetic (disciplined) as possible and see if this would bring them economic success. If it did, they believed that this meant that God had blessed them and they would soon be granted access to heaven. The protestant ethic is a term that has entered popular discourse and many people take it for granted that the values of Protestantism do lend themselves to capitalism. Moreover, there is supporting evidence that other religions such as Confucianism that possess similar values have also heavily influenced the creation of capitalism in Confucian countries such as Singapore. However, it must be noted that Weber’s work is highly contentious because many Marxists such as Kautsky argue that capitalism pre-dated Calvinism. Moreover, Parkin argues that Calvinism was long established in Scotland before capitalism truly took hold. Weber himself was aware of these limitations and he admitted that his research was only a partial account. 



Sociology and Media Studies teacher at Hazelwick School, West Sussex. Former teacher at Felpham Community College and Doha College

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