Weber's Thesis as an Historical Explanation

History and Theory 11 (3):294-320 (1972)

Max Weber's analysis of the Protestant origins of the spirit of modern capitalism is often alluded to, but is generally held to be untenable. Neither the approval nor disapproval rests on a clear vision of what Weber meant. The most destructive argument decries Weber's one-directional and unicausal relationship between Protestantism and capitalism. Others argue that he mislocated the rise of modern capitalism, misinterpreted Protestantism, and misunderstood Catholicism. Yet Max Weber's self-assigned task was not to analyze the official intentional doctrines of Protestantism, but to call into question the ability of the social sciences to contribute to the settlement of major historical questions. The four most substantial arguments made against his thesis were anticipated by Weber and invalidated by his own cautious remarks. It is clear that Weber was interested primarily in the logical structure of his argument and that only by tracing his explicit methodological rules could a key to his thesis be suggested
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DOI 10.2307/2504682
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