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This ethic, or set of ideas, emerging in the 16th century, was cited by Max Weber (1864-1920) as an important influence in encouraging the development of capitalist society. For Protestants, particularly those influenced by the ideas of John Calvin, obedience to God's will demanded energetic and enterprising work in one's occupation or ‘calling’. Profits were morally justified as the reward for this hard work and, so long as they were not casually squandered on luxuries, the making of profit and the achievement of wealth was a just reward for dutiful and energetic work. Max Weber argued that the ‘Protestant Ethic’ was so strongly supportive of capitalist development that countries where Protestantism became dominant quickly moved ahead of Catholic countries in their level of economic development. Weber claimed that the Catholic church, in contrast, promoted ideas and attitudes that tended to obstruct economic development. Catholic doctrine stressed the importance of humility and acceptance of one's position in life, it discouraged pursuit of achievement by suggesting that seeking self-advancement was a distraction from pursuit of a good and moral life in preparation for eternal life after death.

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Athabaca University ICAAP

© Robert Drislane, Ph.D. and Gary Parkinson, Ph.D.
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*This social science dictionary has 1000
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