Protestantism and Capitalism Pre-Weber: Precedents of the Weber Hypothesis
Keywords:Calvinism; capitalism; economy; rationalism; Protestantism; the Weber Thesis
This article re-examines the Weber Thesis or hypothesis which assumes an association between Protestantism, above all Calvinism, and the spirit and activity of modern capitalism. It suggests that certain antecedents as well as opposing versions precede the Weber Thesis. These are termed positive and negative precedents of the Weber Thesis in the sense of alternative accounts of Calvinism and modern capitalist development that do or do not consider Calvinism as a crucial factor of this development. The article identifies and examines such precedents both in economics and sociology prior or in part contemporaneously to Weber. The positive precedents of the Weber Thesis are consistent with and support it but may make it appear less novel and original. Its negative precedents are inconsistent with and even contradict the Weber Thesis and can render it less valid empirically or theoretically plausible. The article therefore aims to provide a prior historical background of the Weber Thesis in economic and sociological theory. It contributes to a better understanding of how the relationship between Calvinism and capitalism, and generally religion and economy, is analyzed within economics and sociology before Weber’s famous Thesis.