Mangling Weber

Book browsing, I picked up The Economics Book (a slim encyclopedia) and began to flip through it. I happened to open to the section on Max Weber and Protestantism. In the two pages(!) devoted to Weber, I found the following presented as "conflicting cases," arguing against his thesis:

"Swedish social scientist Kurt Samuelsson argued that Puritan leaders did not truly endorse capitalistic behavior."

Yes, that would certainly conflict with Weber's thesis... if it was not exactly what Weber said, which was that Calvinism promoted "capitalistic behavior" despite the fact its leading thinkers in no way were endorsing it.

Next we have:

"The leading European power 16th and 17th centuries, and the first global superpower, was he thoroughly Catholic Spanish Empire."

Right. So what Weber posited was, "To become a global superpower, a nation must be Protestant."
Wait a second... that is nothing like what he said! So the point is... nothing?

"Other conflicting cases can also be found in the rise of the Asian countries that have never been Protestant, or even Christian."

Which certainly would represent conflicting cases, given that Weber never mentioned that "the spirit of capitalism" could breach the bounds of its religious origins and become effective in places that had never been touched by Calvinism.

Oh, wait a second yet again: now I recall that the above is exactly what Weber said! OK, never mind.

The entire two pages seems to have been written by someone who had read someone else's summary of someone else's book review of Weber's work. I doubt there is a single book in history about which more nonsense has been written than The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.


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