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The Spirit of Capitalism and the Protestant Ethic
Enquiry into the Weber Thesis
Max Weber, recognized as one of the world's most important sociologists, saw his life's work as nothing less than the comparative analysis of world civilizations. Above all, he was fascinated by the differing historical paths traced by Western civilization and the civilizations of the East. In his famous essay, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, he addressed the forces behind that dramatic and enormous transformation of human life and society known as the Industrial Revolution. Weber's thesis proposes a causal link between the forces of the 'protestant ethic' and the 'spirit of capitalism' that lay behind the Industrial Revolution. This important book offers a sophisticated analysis of Weber's key concepts and an in-depth study as to their formulation in the early modern period. Michael Lessnoff proposes an original and essential distinction between the protestant 'work' and 'profit' ethics and examines the logical relation between them. He looks at Adam Smith's work on the relation between morals and capitalism, comparing Smith's 'spirit of capitalism' to Weber's. Lessnoff also considers the significance of the 'protestant ethic' in the modern world.
As one of the first books of its kind to offer a complex analysis of the Weber thesis and using a large body of previously neglected evidence, The Spirit of Capitalism and the Protestant Ethic will be welcomed by historians of religion and economics and by all sociologists.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
'Lessnoff's book is recommended to all who are seeking a short and carefully constructed tour guide into Weber's remarkable piece of intellectual history.' -- William N. Parker, Journal of Economic History