From good to bad capitalism and back: Max Weber
in Beginning classical social theory
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In his famous double-essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904-05) Max Weber translated a generally felt discontent with modern capitalist civilization into a theme for the (then still emergent) discipline of sociology. Like many of his contemporaries, Weber both affirmed and critiqued modern liberal, capitalist society, celebrating capitalism’s dynamism and creative energy (propelling Western civilization to its well-deserved world-dominating position) while deploring its tendency to become an ‘iron casing’ through which it fetters and destroys itself. Weber felt promoting what he perceived as the original, Puritan capitalist spirit against corrupt ‘utilitarian’, hedonistic capitalism might help slowing down, or even reversing, the decay of Western civilization.


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