MAX WEBER The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904-5)1

  1. Introduction
    1. Western rationalism as topic
    2. Capitalism as most important force in modern life
    3. Characteristics of modern Western capitalism
    4. Rationalism of Western culture extends to many fields
    5. In this book, we will treat ONLY ONE SIDE OF THE CAUSAL CHAIN, the connection of the spirit of modern economic life with the rational ethics of ascetic Protestantism.
  2. Religious Affiliation and Social Stratification
    1. Catholic/Protestant Differences
    2. The Reformation and church control over EDL
    3. Protestantism
  3. The Spirit of Capitalism
    1. What is the spirit of capitalism?
      1. Ideal Type
      2. Ben Franklin as an example
    2. The interesting question is WHERE DID THIS SITUATION COME FROM?
    3. What is the origin of the irrational element which lies at the basis of this particular concrete form of rational thought: the conception of a calling.
  4. Luther’s Conception of The Calling
    1. The idea of a calling — a life-task, a definite field in which to work — is peculiar to Protestants.
      1. Protestantism had a further new development, which was the valuation of the fulfillment of duty in worldly affairs as the highest form which the moral activity of an individual could assume and this is in CONTRAST to trying to surpass worldly morality by monastic asceticism.
  5. The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism
    1. Idea of the calling was not enough.  ascetic Protestantism: Calvinism, Pietism, Methodism and the Baptist sects.
  6. Asceticism and The Spirit of Capitalism
    1. Morality of activity
    2. The division of labor
    3. The ascetic outlook
    4. Turns into a general cultural outlook


More on PESC

  1. The idea of "a calling" — a life-task — is peculiar to Protestants.
  2. Further: idea of value of fulfilling of duty in worldly affairs as highest form of moral activity.
    1. Accept what God has decided!
    2. All you can do is work hard IN THIS WORLD.
    3. Cf. Catholic notion of trying to surpass worldly morality by monastic asceticism
    4. Salvation by faith alone.
  3. Version 1.0 (pre-Calvin) : worldly no longer subordinate to otherworldly asceticism
  4. This style of thinking evolved as one sect gave rise to another in the history of the reformation
  5. Extremely strong motivation to work out strategies for the salvation of the soul. Once you displace the notion that you can "work" or "buy" your way to goodness, what does one tell folks to do?
  6. Calvin, predestination
    1. Humans cannot influence God
    2. Salvation dependent on God alone and neither you nor friends nor church can do anything about it
    3. Radically disempowering.
    4. Radically lonely
  7. TAKES THE MAGIC OUT OF THE WORLD: dis-enchantment
  8. Result : FEAR
  9. NOTE: result here is not the invention of rationalism and rationalization. Rather, it is the attachment of rationalism to one's moral life, and, reciprocally, the attachment of moral values to rationality.
  10. Pastoral advice
    1. Consider yourself saved, combat self-doubt as work of devil, doubt = lack of faith
    2. Intense worldly activity as means to self-confidence
    3. Good work(s) do not increase your chances, but they are a sign of being in the elect
    4. The Catholic can periodically confess and return to grace, make a big alms donation and feel good until the next sin.
    5. The Protestant is put in the position of having to organize her entire life as good act
    6. Every indulgence, every slip up, was not something that would have to be confessed but rather a sign that one was not in fact going to heaven. The better one got, the more particular one had to be about watching out for mistakes.
    7. Calvinism had a logic too it and it was psychologically very powerful
    8. Weber then examines several sects and how they modulated Calvinist/Lutheran idea
    9. Pietism: if one pushes the asceticism enough, one can create a visible community of the elect on earth. Push for even more intense development of one's "state of grace"
    10. Methodism: notion of rebirth and giving oneself passionately to the task of the rationalized struggle for perfection
    11. Baptism: notion of born again and availability of spirit to all (but all do not accept) and more explicit turning away from excess and enjoyments.
  11. Puritans etc. — eschew possession and excess as opportunity for devil to do his work. Progressively more rigidity and uniformity
  12. Cf. how folks get about dieting. Now add eternal damnation as consequence.
  13. DJR: They got moralistic about everyday life…
  14. Two directions for asceticism available
  15. Inner/active where you go about your business but you are constantly up to something, mastering the world in fulfilling your calling


The rationalism that dominates western institutions depends on individuals being socio-cognitively disposed toward practical rational conduct.

  1. Rational thinking in western culture permeates law, science, and culture in a manner that sets it apart as a phenomenon to be understood/explained.
  2. Capitalism — the urge to ever increase profit, not just the urge to acquire stuff — is dominant force in western society. "Enterprises" only survive if they seek to constantly increase profit.
  3. Western capitalism marked by rational industrial organization; separation of business from household; rational bookkeeping; rational capitalistic organization of (formally) free labor
  4. This rationalism extends to many fields — science, mystical contemplation, military training, law and administration. Each is rationalized in terms of different ultimate values and ends. Important for people to be disposed toward practical rational conduct.
  5. In this book, we will treat ONLY ONE SIDE OF THE CAUSAL CHAIN, the connection of the spirit of modern economic life with the rational ethics of ascetic Protestantism.

Religious Affiliation and Social Stratification

  1. Craft to Industry: who decides to become entrepreneur and why?
  2. Catholics remain in craft, Protestants more likely to move toward administration, ownership, etc. Is there something in their socio-cultural mindset?
  3. IDEAL TYPES: Catholic control over EDL via tradition, command, belief. Protestant control over everyday life via internalized (self) discipline.
  4. IDEAL TYPES: Protestantism NOT enlightenment-based liberation. A type of fundamentalism.

The spirit of capitalism is a worldview or mindset that sees the opposite of indolence as a duty

  1. First of all it is an IDEAL TYPE — a complex of attitudes, practices, styles of thinking that have cultural significance. It's a heuristic.
      1. Ideal Type: Ben Franklin's "good man of honest credit" — duty toward increasing one's capital — parable of the talents (Matthew 25)
      2. Acquisition as end in itself. Goodness in avoiding extravagance
  2. The interesting question is WHERE DID THIS SITUATION COME FROM? Not from "superstructure" — the idea was there first. Not from nature: once you can subsist, why work more?
  3. Weber then gives a powerful analysis of the various possible explanations for this socio-cultural-cognitive-behavioral norm. Great model for thinking about thinking.
  4. His ultimate answer is that the origin of the irrational element at base of the concrete form of rational thought behind capitalism is the conception of a calling.

Luther’s Concept of "The Calling" (Beruf — vocation) allowed asceticism to "move out of the monastery" and into the world

  1. The idea of a calling — a life-task, a definite field in which to work — is peculiar to Protestants.
  2. They "invent" the idea of obligation to show your worth by fulfilling duty in your position in life
  3. The idea starts in Calvinism as based in tradition as simply "accept your lot and do your duty"
  4. Protestantism had a further new development, which was the valuation of the fulfillment of duty in worldly affairs as the highest form which the moral activity of an individual could assume and this is in CONTRAST to trying to surpass worldly morality by monastic asceticism.

Worldly Asceticism as a cultural mindset evolved as protestant sects differentiated, split, etc.

  1. Idea of the calling and duty evolve with evolution of other ascetic Protestantism: Calvinism, Pietism, Methodism and the Baptist sects.

Asceticism and The Spirit of Capitalism

  1. Morality of activity
  2. The division of labor
  3. The ascetic outlook
  4. Turns into a general cultural outlook, "The Iron Cage"



Rationalization not the same as knowledge, observation, science.

In western culture, all institutions shot through and through with rationalization.

Western Rationalization sui generis, omnipresent, dominant. Though knowledge and observation of great refinement have existed elsewhere, only in the West has rationalization in science, law and culture developed to such a great degree. The modern West absolutely and completely depends for its whole existence, for the political technical, and economic conditions of its life, on a specially trained organization of individuals, so that the most important functions of everyday life have come to be in the hands of technically, commercially and above all legally trained government officials. Nowhere else does this exist to such a degree as it does in the West.

Capitalism as continuous rational enterprise. The most fateful force in modern life is capitalism. The impulse to acquisition has existed always and everywhere and has in itself nothing to do with capitalism. Capitalism is the pursuit of profit, and forever renewed profit, by means of continuous, rational, capitalistic enterprise. This enterprise must be continuous, because in a capitalistic society, anyone who did not take advantage of opportunities for profit-making would be doomed to extinction.

Profit. Money calculations. A capitalistic economic action rests on the expectation of profit by the utilization of opportunities for exchange, on (formally) peaceful chances for profit. Where this is rationally pursued, calculations in terms of money are made, whether by modern bookkeeping or more primitive means. Everything is done in terms of balances of money income and money expenses. Whether the calculations are accurate, or whether the calculation method is traditional or by guess-work affects only the degree of the rationality of capitalistic acquisition.

Characteristics of modern Western capitalism (MWC): rational industrial organization (that is, attuned to a regular profit and not to political nor irrational speculative opportunities for profit); separation of business from the household; rational bookkeeping. Capitalistic adventurers (in search of booty, whether by war or exploitation) have existed everywhere, but only in the modern West has developed… the rational capitalistic organization of (formally) free labor.

Rationality of capitalism depends on rationality of science. The rationality of MWC is dependent on the calculation of technical factors, and so is dependent on the development in science of the exact and rational experiment. C'ism did not cause this development: but, the continuing development of this type science is supported by capitalistic interests in practical economic applications.

Rationalism in every field. The peculiar rationalism of Western culture extends to many fields — science, mystical contemplation, military training, law and administration. Each of theses fields may be rationalized in terms of very different ultimate values and ends, and what is rational from one point of view may well be irrational from another. The development of economic rationalism is partly dependent on rational technique and law, but it also requires people to have a favorable disposition toward adopting certain types of practical rational conduct.

"A crystal this large could balance a house of up to 2200 square feet."

In this book, we will treat ONLY ONE SIDE OF THE CAUSAL CHAIN, the connection of the spirit of modern economic life with the rational ethics of ascetic Protestantism.

Religious Affiliation and Social Stratification

Empirical Observation : Protestants more entrepreneurial than Catholics. Catholics show a stronger propensity to remain in their crafts, and become master craftsmen, while Protestants are attracted to a larger extent to the upper ranks of skilled labor and administrative positions in factories. Protestants own a disproportionate share of capital. All other things equal, Protestants have been more likely to develop economic rationalism than Catholics. Weber seeks the explanation in 'the permanent intrinsic character of their religion,' and not only in their temporary external historico-political situations.

Reformation actually introduced new level of church control over everyday life. The Reformation meant not the elimination of the church's control over everyday life, but a substitution of a new form of control for the previous one. While the Catholic church was fairly lax, Calvinism 'would be for us the most absolutely unbearable form of ecclesiastical control of the individual which could possibly exist.'

Protestantism co-incident with Enlightenment but not a manifestation of it. Protestantism must not be understood as joy of living or in any other sense connected with the Enlightenment. Early Protestantism (e.g., Luther, Calvin) had nothing to do with progress in an Enlightenment sense. Not all Protestant denominations had an equally strong influence on the development of members' business acumen and spirit of hard work.

This chapter sets up the idea that there may be a protestant "mindset" of some sort. Main rhetorical achievement here is to disabuse reader of notion that Catholic church was the authoritarian institution and protestantism the liberation from it.

The Spirit of Capitalism

Spirit of Capitalism as ideal type. The spirit of capitalism is ''an historical individual: a complex of elements associated in historical reality which we united into a conceptual whole from the standpoint of their cultural significance'' (47).

Ben Franklin as posterchild for spirit of capitalism. Franklin has image of the morally upright selfish man, the ideal of an honest man of recognized credit. He has a duty to increase his capital (cf. parable of the talents — Matthew 25:20). It is not mere business astuteness, it is an ethos; infraction of its rules is not foolishness or bad business, but forgetfulness of duty.

George Banks: [singing] A British bank is run with precision. A British home requires nothing less! Tradition, discipline and rules must be the tools! Without them: disorder… catastrophe! Anarchy! In short, you have a ghastly mess!

In this ethic, economic acquisition is no longer considered a means of subsistence: it is the ultimate purpose of a man's life. This is combined with the strict avoidance of all spontaneous enjoyment of life. (NOTE: From the standpoint ''of the happiness of, or utility to, a single individual, this ethic appears entirely transcendental and absolutely irrational'' (53)).

People now are born into a capitalistic economy which presents itself to them as the unalterable order of things in which they must live. In so far as a person born now is involved in the system of market relationships, he must conform to capitalistic rules of action. Today's capitalism selects the subjects it needs through economic survival of the fittest. The interesting question, according to Max, is WHERE DID THIS SITUATION COME FROM?

It did NOT arise as the superstructure or reflection of economic situations. For example, the spirit of capitalism such as espoused by our buddy Ben Franklin was present before capitalistic order.

In order to arise, the spirit of capitalism had to struggle with its 'most important opponent,' traditionalism. For instance, workers will respond to an increase in piece rates by doing less work, collecting the usual amount of money, and going home early. Men do not ''by nature'' wish to earn more and more money, they simply wish to live as they are accustomed to and to earn as much as is necessary for that purpose.

Another way of attempting to increase productivity is to lower wages or piece rates, so that workers must work harder and longer to earn the same amount as before. This method has its limits. It (and capitalism) requires a surplus population which can be hired cheaply in the market. Also, too large a surplus population can encourage the development of labor intensive methods, rather than more efficient methods: low wages do not equal cheap labor. And, if you pay people too little, their efficiency and attentiveness decreases.

Thus, it would be better if labor were performed as if it were an absolute end in itself. This can only be the process of a long and arduous education (for example, being raised Pietist). Capitalism ''now in the saddle'' can fairly easily recruit the required workers, but this was not always the case.

Capitalism can exist with a traditionalistic character. The animating spirit of the entrepreneur may be the traditional rate of profit, the traditional amount of work, the traditional manner of labor-management relations, and the essentially traditional circle of customers and manner of attracting new ones. Take the example of the putting out system.

In such a system, this leisureliness can be destroyed, without any essential change in the form of work organization (such as vertically integrated factories). The spirit of capitalism is the cause of this change. Where the spirit of capitalism appears and is able to work itself out, it produces its own capital and monetary supplies as the means to its ends, but the reverse is not true (69).

Protestantism was not merely a stage prior to the development of a purely rationalistic philosophy, however. Rationalism shows a development which by no means follows parallel lines in the various departments of life. Since life may be rationalized from fundamentally different basic points of view and in very different directions, we must ask the origin of the irrational element which lies at the basis of this particular concrete form of rational thought: the conception of a calling.

Luther's Conception of The Calling

The idea of a calling — a life-task, a definite field in which to work — is peculiar to Protestants. Protestantism had a further new development, which was the valuation of the fulfillment of duty in worldly affairs as the highest form which the moral activity of an individual could assume. The only way of living acceptably to God was solely through the fulfillment of the obligations imposed upon the individual by his position in the world (his calling), NOT by trying to surpass worldly morality by monastic asceticism (80).

Remember important part of Reformation: By faith, not works, shall ye be saved. You are justified by faith, etc. So all those indulgences earned by crawling on your knees up stairways, etc. don't get you anything.

For the time being (before Calvin et al. got hold of it), the idea of the calling remained traditionalistic and its only ethical result negative: worldly duties were no longer subordinated to ascetic ones; obedience to authority and acceptance of things as they were, were preached.

The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism

However, this idea of the calling was not sufficient for the development of the spirit of capitalism. We needed the effects of forms of ascetic Protestantism: Calvinism, Pietism, Methodism and the Baptist sects.

An important thing to keep in mind is that these folks were not motivated by acquisitive lusts, but rather by salvation of the soul.

Calvinists believed in predestination. God designated before the creation of the world who would be saved and who would get to rot in hell. All creation exists for the sake of God, and has meaning only as means to the glory and majesty of God. Human merit or guilt plays no part in the possession of grace, since that would make God's decrees subject to human influence. This doctrine 'must above all have one consequence… a feeling of unprecedented inner loneliness of the single individual' (104). The individual was forced to follow the path of his own destiny decreed for him from eternity without help from others or from the Church — complete elimination of salvation through the Church and the sacraments (which Lutheranism retained). This meant the elimination of magic from the world. [It also meant the doing away with a periodical discharge of the emotional sense of sin (confession).]

Now, the elected Christian should glorify God in life by fulfilling God's commandments to the best of his ability. This requires social achievements of the Christian because God decrees that social life shall be organized according to his commandments.

Fear and lack of knowledge of whether or not one is going to rot in hell led to a need for ordinary men to find certitudo salutis (certainty of salvation). Pastoral advice to these poor, tortured dudes contained two themes: 1) an absolute duty to consider oneself chosen and to combat all doubts as temptations of the devil, since lack of self-confidence is the result of insufficient faith, hence of imperfect grace. 2) Intense worldly activity as the most suitable means to attain that self-confidence [thus we eliminate the free rider problem]. The Calvinist sought to identify true faith by its fruits: a type of Christian conduct which served to increase the glory of God. Good works do not affect salvation, but they are indispensable as a sign of election. In practice, this means God helps those who help themselves. The Calvinist creates a conviction of his own salvation.

For Catholics, good works were not a part of a rationalized system of life — they could be performed sporadically, to atone — whereas for Calvinists they are. The God of Calvinism demanded not single good works, but a life of good works combined into a unified system. The moral conduct of the average man was subjected to a consistent method for conduct as a whole. The end of this asceticism was to be able to lead an alert, intelligent life: the most urgent task the destruction of spontaneous, impulsive enjoyment. The most important means was to bring order into the conduct of its adherents. Hence we have methodically rationalized ethical conduct.

The Calvinistic doctrine of predestination was only one of several possible motives which could have supported the methodical rationalization of life. However, it had not only a unique consistency (by virtue of being based on logical deduction, rather than religious experience) and was psychologically extraordinarily powerful.


This sect sought to make the invisible Church of the elect visible on this earth. By means of intensified asceticism these folks hoped to enjoy the blissfulness of community with God in this life. Sometimes this latter tendency led to displays of emotion, which were antithetical to Calvinist restraint. Other than that, however, the practical effect of Pietistic principles was an even stricter ascetic control of conduct in the calling:

  1. Methodical development of one's own state of grace to a higher and higher degree of certainty and perfection in terms of the law was a sign of grace.
  2. a belief that God's Providence works through those in such a state of perfection.

Since some of these folks believed grace subject to repentance, by the creation of methods to induce repentance even the attainment of divine grace became in effect an object of rational human activity.


Though rebirth, an emotional certainty of salvation as the immediate result of faith was an important factor, the emotional act of conversion was methodically induced. Emotion, once awakened, was directed into a rational struggle for perfection. This provided a religious basis for ascetic conduct after the doctrine of predestination had been given up by these folks.

Nothing new was added to the idea of the calling.

The Baptist Sects

The church was viewed as a community of personal believers of the reborn. Salvation was achieved by personal, individual revelation; it was offered to everyone, though not everyone took it.

The injunction was to be in the world but not of it, so worldly enjoyments and unnecessary social intercourse with non-reborn folks was avoided. The Holy Spirit worked in daily life, and spoke directly to any individual who was willing to hear. This leads to an eventual elimination of all that remained of the doctrine of salvation through the Church and sacraments. This accomplished the religious rationalization of the world in its most extreme form.

Conscience is the revelation of God to the individual.

The rationalization of conduct within the world, but for the sake of the world beyond, was the consequence of the concept of calling of ascetic Protestantism.

Asceticism and The Spirit of Capitalism

In Puritan thinking, the real moral objection to possession of wealth is an objection to relaxation in the security of possession, the enjoyment of wealth with the consequence of idleness and the temptations of the flesh, above all distraction from the pursuit of a righteous life. It is only because possession involves this danger that it is suspect at all. Not leisure and enjoyment, but only activity serves to increase the glory of God. Waste of time is thus the first and in principle the deadliest of sins. Thus, inactive contemplation at the expense of work is right out.

Example. When I slack off, I am tempted to indulge in bad things (eating sweets, reading trashy novels, etc.).

Labor is an approved ascetic technique, but is also in itself an purpose of life as ordained by God. Unwillingness to work is symptomatic of the lack of grace. Wealth does not exempt anyone from this.

The division of labor, which has a providential purpose in the thought of the Puritans, leads to qualitative and quantitative improvements in production, and thus serves the common good. But, in addition, specialization is encouraged by the calling, to which it provides an ethical justification; for, ''outside of a calling the accomplishments of a man are only casual and irregular and he spends more time in idleness than in work.'' If God presents to His elect a change for profit, he must pursue it: the Christian must follow the call by taking advantage of the opportunity. The acquisition of wealth in the performance of a calling is morally permissible and enjoined.

  • Asceticism turned against the spontaneous enjoyment of life. So, sport, for instance, is acceptable only if it serves a rational purpose, say, increasing physical efficiency.
  • The powerful tendency toward uniformity of life, which today so immensely aids the capitalistic interest in the standardization of production, had its ideal foundation in the repudiation of all idolatry of the flesh (eg, non-ascetic, flashy or attractive clothing).

The Puritan outlook on life 'stood at the cradle of modern economic man' (174). This religious epoch bequeathed to its utilitarian successors ''an amazingly good… conscience in the acquisition of money, so long as it took place legally'' (176). In addition, the power of religious asceticism provided owners with sober, conscientious and industrious workmen. And, it provided comforting assurance that the unequal distribution of goods in the world was ordained by God.

The religious basis had died away by Ben Franklin's time. Limitation to specialized work is now a condition of any valuable work in the modern world. ''The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, did its part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order This order is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production and today determine the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition, with irresistible force.''

The Religious Rejections of the World and Their Directions

Motives for the Rejections of the World: The Meaning of Their Rational Construction

Individual spheres of value presented here as ideal types have a rational consistency rarely found in reality. This essay proceeds from the most rational forms reality can assume; it attempts to find out how far certain rational conclusions, which can be established theoretically, have been drawn in reality. Perhaps, also, we can find out why those rational conclusions have not been drawn.

Typology of Asceticism and Mysticism

Two contrasting abnegations of the world:

  1. active asceticism that is a God-willed ACTION of the devout who are God's tools. Rationally active asceticism, in mastering the world, seeks to tame what is creatural and wicked through work in a worldly vocation (inner-worldly asceticism);
  2. contemplative POSSESSION of the holy as found in mysticism. The individual is not a tool, but a vessel of the divine. Desired: other-worldly religious state; contemplative flight from the world.

Active asceticism may confine itself to controlling wickedness in the actor's own nature; in this case, it avoids any action in the orders of the world (asceticist flight from the world). In external bearing, it thereby comes close to contemplative flight. Conversely, the mystic may determine s/he need not flee from the world, and so be an inner-worldly mysticist, remaining in the orders of the world.

Directions of the Abnegation of the World:

Formulated abstractly, the rational aim of redemption religion has been to secure for the saved a holy state, and thereby a habitude that assures salvation. This takes the place of an acute and extraordinary, and thus a holy state which is transitorily achieved by means of orgies, asceticism, or contemplation. Most prophetic and redemptory religions have lived not only in an acute, but a permanent state of tension in relation to the world and its orders. The more the religions have been true religions of salvation, the greater has this tension been. The tension has been greater the more religion has been sublimated from ritualism and towards 'religious absolutism.' Indeed, the further the rationalization and sublimation of external and internal possession of — in the widest sense — things worldly has progressed, the stronger has the tension on the part of religion become. For the rationalization and conscious sublimation of man's relations to the various spheres of values, internal and external, as well as religious and secular, have then pressed towards making conscious the internal and lawful autonomy of the individual spheres; thereby letting them drift into those tensions which remain hidden to the original naive relation with the external world.

The more comprehensive and the more inward the aim of salvation has been, the more it has been taken for granted that the faithful should ultimately stand closer to the savior, the prophet, the priest, the brother in the faith than to natural relations and to the matrimonial community. Prophecy has created a new social community; thereby the relationships of the sib and of matrimony have been devalued.

Communities of villages, members of the sib, the guild or of partners in seafaring, hunting and warring expeditions have known two elemental principles: first, the dualism or in-group and out-group morality. For in-group morality the principled obligation to give brotherly support in distress has existed. All this followed the principle of ''your want of today, may be my want of tomorrow'' (this principle was not rationally weighed, but it played its part in sentiment). Accordingly, haggling in exchange and loan situations, as well as permanent debt-enslavement and similar kinds of enslavement, were confined to outgroup morality and applied only to outsiders.

The religiosity of the congregation transferred the ancient economic ethic of neighborliness (I'll help you out today, since I may need you to help me out tomorrow) to the relations among brothers of the faith. What had previously been the obligations of the noble and the wealthy became the fundamental imperatives of all ethically rationalized religion (to care for orphans and widows, to give alms). The principle that constituted the communal relations among the salvation prophesies was the suffering common to all believers (whether or not the suffering actually existed or was a constant threat, whether it was internal or external). The more imperatives that issued from the ethic of reciprocity among neighbors were raised, the more rational the conception of salvation became, and the more it was sublimated into an ethic of absolute ends.

The Economic Sphere

The tension between brotherly religion and the world has been most obvious in the economic sphere. All the primeval magical or mystagogic ways of influencing spirits and deities have pursued special interests. The sublimated religions of salvation, however, had been increasingly tense in their relationships with rationalized economies.

A rational economy is a functional organization oriented to money-prices which originate in the interest-struggles of men in the market. Calculation is not possible without estimation in money prices and hence without market struggles. Money is the most abstract and impersonal element that exists in human life. The more the world of the capitalist economy follows its own immanent laws, the less accessible it is to any imaginable relationship with a religious ethic of brotherliness. Ultimately no genuine religion of salvation has overcome the tension between their religiosity and a rational economy.

The paradox of all rational asceticism is that rational asceticism has created the very wealth it rejected.

There have only been two consistent avenues for escaping the tension between religion and in the economic world in a principled and inward manner:

  1. the Puritan ethic of the vocation. Puritanism, as a religion of virtuosos, renounced the universalism of love and rationally routinized all work in this world into serving God's will and testing ones state of grace. Puritanism accepted the routinization of the economic cosmos, which , along with the whole world, it devalued as creatural and depraved. It involved a renunciation of salvation in favor of the groundless and always only particularized grace. Actually, this standpoint of unbrotherliness was no longer a genuine religion of salvation. A genuine religion of salvation can exaggerate brotherliness to the height of the mystic's acosmism of love.
  2. Mysticism. The mystic's benevolence does not inquire into the man to whom and for whom it sacrifices. Mysticism is not interested in his person. Mysticism is a unique escape form this world in the form of an objectless devotion to anybody, not for man's sake, but purely for devotion's sake.

The Political Sphere

The consistent brotherly ethic of salvation religions has come into an equally sharp tension with the political orders of the world. Local (community, tribe, household, etc.) gods and magic were not a problem The problem arose when these barriers of locality, tribe and polity were shattered by universalistic religions. And the problem arose in full strength only when this god was a god of 'love.' The problem of tension with the political order emerged for redemption religions out of the basic demand for brotherliness. In politics as in economics, the more rational the political order became, the sharper the problems of these tensions became.

The brotherliness of a group of men bound together in war appears valueless in brotherly religions; it is seen as a mere reflection of the technically sophisticated brutality of the struggle. It's consecration appears as the glorification of fratricide.

The only two consistent solutions (first three guesses don't count…): puritanism and mysticism. Puritanism believes God's commands should be imposed on the world by the means of the world — violence, so ''just war'' is not a problem for Puritanism (God is on their side). The mystics take a ''radical political attitude'' of ''turning the other cheek'' which makes them appear ''necessarily vulgar and lacking in dignity in the eyes of every self-assured worldly ethic of heroism.''

Organic social ethics (where religiously substructured) stands on the soil of brotherliness, but, in contrast to mystic and acosmic love, is dominated by a cosmic, rational demand for brotherliness. It point of departure is the experience of the inequality of religious charisma. The fact that the holy should be accessible to some and not all is unbearable to organic social ethics. It therefore attempts to synthesize this inequality of charismatic qualifications with secular stratification by status, into a cosmos of God-ordained services which are specialized in function. Certain tasks are given to every individual and every group according to their social and economic position as determined by fate. Without something like the Indian doctrine of Karma (which says there's a reason why you're bottom dog), every organic social ethic unavoidably represents an accommodation to the interests of the privileged strata of the world.

From the standpoint of inner-worldly asceticism, the organic ethic lacks the drive for an ethical and thorough rationalization of individual life. In such matters, it has no premium for the rational and methodical patterning of personal life in the interest of the individual's own salvation. The organic pragmatism of salvation must consider the redemptory aristocracy of inner-worldly asceticism, with its rational depersonalization of life orders, as the hardest form of lovelessness and lack of brotherliness. It must also consider the redemptory pragmatism of mysticism as a sublimated and unbrotherly indulgence of the mystic' s own charisma. Both inner-worldly asceticism and mysticism ultimately condemn the social world to absolute meaninglessness (or, at least they hold that God's aims concerning the world are utterly incomprehensible).

The rationalism of religious and organic doctrines of society cannot stand up under this idea; for it seeks to comprehend the world as an at least relatively rational cosmos in spite of all its wickedness: the world must hear at least traces of the divine plan of salvation.

The organic ethic of society is an eminently conservative power hostile to revolution. Virtuoso religion is a potentially revolutionary force. Its revolutionary turn may assume two forms:

  1. (from inner-worldly asceticism, with an absolute divine law) it becomes a religious duty to realize this divine natural law. This corresponds to an obligation to crusade.
  2. (from mysticism) The commands of the world do not hold for the man who is assured in his obsession with god.

The Aesthetic Sphere
The development of intellectualism and the rationalism of life make art become a cosmos of more and more consciously grasped independent values which exist in their own right. Art comes to provide a salvation from the routines of everyday life, and begins to compete directly with salvation religion. [The refusal of modern man to assume responsibility for moral judgements tends to transform judgements of moral intent into judgements of taste.]

The Erotic Sphere

The brotherly ethic of salvation religion is in profound tension with the greatest irrational force of life: sexual love. The more sublimated sexuality is, and the more principled and relentlessly consistent the salvation ethic of brotherhood is, the sharper is the tension between sex and religion. A principled ethic of religious brotherhood perceives that inner, earthly salvation by mature love competes in the sharpest possible way with devotion to a supra-mundane God. Inner-worldly and rational asceticism (vocational asceticism) can accept only the rationally regulated marriag

The Intellectual Sphere

The tension between religion and intellectual knowledge comes to the fore wherever rational, empirical knowledge has consistently worked through to the disenchantment of the world. Every increase of rationalism in empirical science increasing pushes religion from the rational into the irrational realm; but only today does religion become the irrational or anti-rational supra-human power.

The less magic or merely contemplative mysticism and the more pure doctrine a religion contains, the greater is its need of rational apologetics. The more religion became book-religion and doctrine, the more literary it became and the more efficacious it became in provoking rational lay-thinking, freed of priestly control. However, there is no ''unbroken'' religion working as a vital force which is not compelled at some point to demand the credo non quod, sed quia absurdum (some saint said this, but i can't remember which one, it means ''i believe it because it is absurd''. i think it was said in reference to the trinity), the sacrifice of the intellect.

Redemptory religion defends itself against the attack of the self-sufficient intellect, by raising the claim that religious knowledge moves in a different sphere.

The need for salvation, consciously cultivated as the substance of religiosity, has resulted from the endeavor of a systematic and practical rationalization of life's realities. All religions have demanded as a specific presupposition that the course of the world be somehow meaningful, at least in so far as it touches upon the interests of men (this claim arises first as the problem of unjust suffering and just compensation for the unequal distribution of individual happiness in the world). From here, the claim has tended to progress toward an ever increasing devaluation of the world. For, the more intensely rational thought has seized upon the problem of a just and retributive compensation, the less an entirely inner-worldly solution could seem possible, and the less an other-worldly solution could appear probable or even meaningful.

The intellect, like all culture values, has created an aristocracy based on the possession of rational culture and independent of all personal ethical qualities of man. The aristocracy of intellect is hence an unbrotherly aristocracy. Worldly man has regarded the possession of culture as the highest good. In addition to the burden of ethical guilt, however, something has adhered to this cultural value which was bound to depreciate it with still greater finality, namely, senselessness (if the cultural value is to be judged in terms of its own standards).

The pure inner-worldly perfection of self by a man of ''culture'', the ultimate value to which ''culture'' has seemed to be reducible is meaningless for religious thought. This meaninglessness follows for religious thought from the obvious meaninglessness of death when viewed from the inner-worldly standpoint. The cultivated man can die weary of life, but never satiated with it; for, the perfectibility of the man of culture, in principle, progresses indefinitely, as do the cultural values.

Culture appears as man's emancipation from the organically prescribed cycle of natural life. For this reason, culture's every step forward seems condemned to lead to an every more devastating senselessness. The advancement of cultural values seems to become a senseless hustle in the service of worthless, moreover self-contradictory, and mutually antagonistic ends. The advancement of cultural values appears the more meaningless the more it is made a holy task, a ''calling.''

The need for salvation responds to this devaluation by becoming more other-worldly, more alienated from all structured forms of life, and by confining itself to the strict religious essence. The reaction is the stronger the more systematic the thinking about the ''meaning'' of the universe becomes, the more the external organization of the world is rationalized, the more the conscious experience of the world's irrational content is sublimated. AND NOT ONLY THEORETICAL THOUGHT LED TO THIS DISENCHANTING OF THE WORLD, BUT ALSO THE VERY ATTEMPT OF RELIGIOUS ETHICS TO PRACTICALLY AND ETHICALLY RATIONALIZE THE WORLD.

These specific intellectual and mystical attempts at salvation in the face of these tensions succumb in the end to the world dominion of unbrotherliness. One the one hand, their charisma is not accessible to everyone. Hence, in intent, mystical salvation means aristocracy; it is an aristocratic religiosity of redemption. And, in the midst of a culture that is rationally organized for a vocational workaday life, there is hardly any room for the cultivation of acosmic brotherliness, unless it is among the strata of the economically carefree. Under the technical and social conditions of rational culture, an imitation of the life of Buddha, Jesus or Francis seems condemned to failure for purely external reasons.