Catinguil, Christian G. 2013-051764 (030915)
The relationship between the religion and capitalism has been investigated by many researchers from the field of Sociology and Economics. Max Weber (1904) in his study “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” argues how Protestantism “gave rise to certain type of rational value structure and industrious work ethic which intentionally nurtured the development of capitalism” (Law, 2011, p. 156). Weber (1904) categorized the type of capitalism influenced by Protestant Ethics as a Rational Capitalism, which is practiced to increase the wealth for its own sake (Allan, 2005, Law, 2011, & Radkau, 2011). Allan (2005) clarifies that Protestant Ethics did not necessarily cause Capitalism, but instead it produced a number of social factors that overlap to create the bedrock in which capitalism could spring.
Ernest Johnson (1922) in his work “The Teaching of the Protestant Church” further investigated the development of the Protestant churches during his time. He argues that during the development of Protestantism in America, there was not a common teaching between the Protestant churches. It is because of the great variety of communions in Protestantism which do not closely agree among themselves, unlike the Catholic Church that follows a certain hierarchy (Johnson, 1922). Furthermore, the teachings of Protestantism that it is the laity who has the calling from God caused an increase in assumption of power by the laity (Johnson, 1922 & Allan, 2005). With the laity as powerful, the Church’s official and effective teaching are modified to fit to the interest of the laity whose primary activity have been in the sphere of practical business (Johnson, 1922). Therefore it happens that the teachings and doctrine of the Catholic Church remained to be unmodified and theologically conservative “as compared with Protestantism, is at the same time more liberal in its explicit teaching with reference to matters of economic and industrial” (Johnson, 1922, p.82). Moreover, in 1908 the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America was established, and authorized the creation of a Commission on the Church and Social Service whose primary goal concerns economy and the industry (Johnson, 1922). The commission is instructed to “recognize the import of present social conditions” and “especially to secure a better understanding and a more natural relationship between workingmen and the Church” (Johnson, 1922, p.83).
As a conclusion to his study, Johnson (1922) argues that there is a possibility for the Protestant communions, even those who are most conservative, to restate the teachings of Jesus Christ in social terms and in particular, economic and industrial problems. It is evident on the study that Johnson’s (1922) argument and Max Weber (1904) (in Allan, 2005) both concludes Protestantism as a pre-condition to the rise of Capitalism. In addition, Johnson’s (1922) work also shows that Protestantism did not just influence the growth of capitalism through its social teaching but on the very structure of churches as well because of the creation of Protestant commissions and organizations that supports the laborers and marketers.
In present, the result of occupational statistics on countries containing coexisting religions shows that people who own capital, employers, more highly educated skilled worker, and more highly trained technical or business personnel in modern companies are Protestants (Calhoun, Gerteis, Moody et al., 2012). The statistics presented by Calhoun, Gerteis, Moody, et al. (2012) is a concrete example of the Protestant Ethics’ effect on the rational capitalistic thoughts and actions of the individuals.
Karl Marx (1818-1883), like Max Weber, also considers Religion as a factor in the rise of capitalism (Allan, 2005). But his arguments focus on the issues on class struggles in a capitalist society and the problem of religious ideology (Allan, 2005). In his concept of Reification, he stated that humans accept something as real (as something material) even though it really is not because it is just an idea or an ideology (Allan, 2005). He argues that because most of the people are alienated from their material means of production, people are blinded to the oppression of the class system, they misrecognize their true class consciousness, and disregard the negative effects of their class position (Allan, 2005). In exchange of their class consciousness people accept an ideology, which in this case comes from Religion. This explains the famous line of Karl Marx “Religion ist dast Opium Des Volkes” (Religion is the Opium of the People) (Allan, 2005). . Karl Marx did not just consider Religion as a factor in the rise of capitalism but also consider it as the “the handmaiden of the elite; it is a principal vehicle for transmitting and reproducing the capitalist ideology” (Allan, 2005, p. 89). Religion, “the archetypal form of ideology” for the capitalists is a tool that gives choice to the oppressed class to disregard the reality of their class oppression and in exchange accept the ideology of Religion, and be forever a worker of the capitalist society (Allan, 2005).
Stefano Micali (2010) in his journal article “The Capitalist Cult of Performance” questions what capitalism is, to which Walter Benjamin (1921) answers, “Capitalism is a Religion”. Benjamin’s claim of capitalism as a religion was supported by Giorgo Agamben (2007) in his essay In Praise of Profanation and a sociologist named Dirk Baecker (2003), to which he stated that “now more than ever it is legitimate to conceive capitalism as a religion” (in Micali, 2010, p. 379). These social theorists opposes both Max Weber’s and Karl Marx’s idea that capitalism is a religiously conditioned construction, instead they believe that capitalism itself is a religious phenomenon “that serves to satisfy the same worries, anguish and disquiet formerly answered by so-called religion” (Micali, 2010, p. 379). Benjamin considers capitalism as the purest religious cult there ever was in history, as it is a cultic religion without any specific form of theology or dogma, and that everything only has meaning in direct relation to the cult (Micali, 2010). In addition, he stated that in the religious cult of capitalism, everyday would be a holy day in which people would celebrate worships without any pauses or interruption (Micali, 2010). But according to Benjamin (1921) in Micali, (2010) unlike the religion of Catholic and Protestant Christianity, the religion of Capitalism “is a religion which offers not the reform of existence, but its complete destruction. It is the expansion of despair, until despair becomes a religious state of the world in the hope that this will lead to salvation” (p. 379-380). If we would scrutinize Benjamin’s idea of capitalism as a religion it is the same as Weber’s idea of the iron cage of bureaucracy in which individuals are trapped in the system of capitalism or in Benjamin’s viewpoint, “the worships of the religion of capitalism that doesn’t allow pauses”.
It has been a century since Max Weber published his masterpiece, and it has faced number of criticisms such as that of Walter Benjamin (1921). Critics according to Novak (2005) mostly complained that Weber did not understand Reformed theology. In addition, they argued that on Weber’s thesis he should have relied on creedal statements or formal treatises rather than pastoral writings such as that of Richard Baxter. Furthermore, the passages from the “Institutes of the Christian Religion” written by John Calvin, teaches that the ultimate purpose of human life is not tireless devotion to an earthly calling, but rather faith in the revelation of Christ, and therefore any suggestion of relationship between Protestant Theology and capitalism must be dismissed (Novak, 2005). The author points out that these criticisms misread Weber. What Weber tries to argue on The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism is that capitalist spirit was not born out of Protestant theology, but rather it arose from the psychological tensions that Calvinist social teachings tended to trigger in the minds of believers (Novak, 2005). According to Weber (in Novak, 2005), the Protestants are having enormous psychological suffering because of the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. It states that every human being is born in sin, reckoned sinful under Adam, and there is nothing anyone can do to save himself or herself from hell (neither faith nor good works) (Allan, 2005). Salvation absolutely is a work of grace, it is “from start to finish a work of God” (Allan, 2005, p. 167) and God, an omniscient being, has always known who would be saved and who is predestined to heaven or hell (Allan, 2005). Since the individual is conscious of the fact of his or her predestination to heaven or hell and the fact that he or she cannot do anything to assure his or her salvation (not even evangelizing, being baptized, and confessing faith), “Restless work in a vocational calling was recommended as the best possible means to acquire the self-confidence that one belonged among the elect” (Weber, 1904-1905/2002 in Allan, 2005, p. 167). This inspires a huge increase in the industriousness of individual Protestants, and became a factor of the rise of capitalism. Novak (2005) called the phenomenon as a classic and powerful instance of the Law of Unintended Consequences from Robert K. Merton’s (1936) The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action which are outcomes that are not the ones intended by a purposeful action. The unintended consequences are different to Robert Merton’s Latent functions, as latent functions are forms of unintended consequences (Merton, 1936).
The author also argues the importance and effects of Catholicism to the economy. He argues that “If Protestant striving has inspired economic dynamism, Catholic delight in goodness of creation has, by comparison, encouraged economic creativity” (Novak, 2005, p. 27). Randall Collins (in Novak, 2005) presents that one of the primary causes of the revival of European Commerce in the twelfth century was the rise of Cistercian monasteries that pioneered on machineries such as mills and factories operated by community of monks. This proves that Catholicism directly affected the whole economic structure of Europe during twelfth hundreds.
Weber’s work focuses mainly on religion as a pre-condition to the rise of Capitalism in the West. Hefner (2010) investigated what he called as an “old idea in western social theory” of whether there is a relationship between the religious resurgence and the capitalist development. But this time he mentioned the development not only in the “West” as what Weber tries to proves, but also in the “East and Southeast Asia” over the past half century. Some post-war Asianists such as, Robert Bellah (1957) and Clifford Geertz (1960, 1965) dedicated their early careers looking for functional equivalents of Weber’s Protestant Ethic in whole Asia. But during the 1960s there were raging social debates, and social theorists lost interests in the topic of capitalism and religion (Hefner, 2010). After the industrial growth of East Asia in 1990s, the issue of religion and capitalism returned. But the way in which the issue was assessed had changed (Hefner, 2010). The new focus of issue in religion and capitalism is no longer with Protestantism but to a new Asian religiosity, Pentecostal Christianity.
Asian Pentecostals accepted the Prosperity Theology, which the author defined as a kinder, gentler, and more market-friendly doctrine. Prosperity Christianity spread into areas of Southeast Asia including the Catholic Philippines.
The Catholic social teaching affects the economic thoughts of individuals through the social encyclicals released by the Vatican. According to Thomas Woods Jr. (2005) there is “a strong ‘hostility toward the market’ in the social encyclicals, notwithstanding the favorable comments made by John Paul II in Centesimus Annus” (p.147). The said hostility has led Catholic Christians from the market to endorse compromised positions on a variety of issues including labor unions, wage rates, and monopoly (Woods, Jr., 2005). Hill and Capella (2013) argues that according to the “Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994”, socially and economically disadvantaged consumers must receive special moral treatment from marketers derived from the teaching of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching (CST).
There are numbers of encyclicals that concerns about the poor and workers of the market economy namely; (1) Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in 1891, a document which examines the rights of laborers during the Industrial Revolution, (2) Pope Pius XI work Quandragesimo Anno (“After Forty Years”) which defends the rights of the workers during the “Great Depression”, (3) Pope John XXIII, recognizing the urgent need to resolve world poverty, brings attention to human rights and the disastrous arms race and war, (4) Pope Paul VI, in Progressio Populorum calls for the development of each person and all peoples, (5) Pope John Paul II, in his each of his four encyclicals continually stresses that respect for basic human rights, especially for the poorest, (6) the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (1986) in their Economic Justice for All which reflects on the “social and moral scandal” of U.S. and world poverty and gives the greatest moral urgency to the needs of the poor, and lastly (7) Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical letter titled Caritas in Veritate (“Love in Truth”), describes how the wealth of the world is growing in absolute terms, but vast inequalities are still increasing (Hill & Capella, 2013).
But in opposition to the result viewed by the Vatican church, Woods (2005) argues that Catholic Economists are concerned with the means recommended by the Vatican encyclicals as it may not result to what is intended for the poor and the workers, but may worsen their condition. In response to the possible negative effect, the given Catholic Economists choses “to involve oneself in some kind of disobedience to Church teaching” (Woods, 2005, p.147).
The effects of the Protestant and Catholic Church to the economic thoughts and actions of individual Christians as a social reality can validate Robert K. Merton’s Manifest and Latent Functions. Manifest functions are results that are known and are intended by the individual actor, while Latent Functions are the unintended effects of the action done by the individual actor. In the Protestant teachings and the development of Rational Capitalism, the Manifest function was intended to worship, serve, and glorify God’s name, while the Latent function was the development of Rational Capitalism as it was not intended from the first place.
The limitation of this study is the limited Review of Related Literature in support of the ‘Catholic teaching affecting the economic thoughts and actions of individuals’. I believe the reason for this is because the effects are only visible in the macro sense and has no concrete example, which is difficult to be chosen as a topic for a study, unlike those of the Protestant teachings which the effect is visible, and affects the individual ideology of the Protestants in micro.
In conclusion to the study, after scrutinizing the effect of both Catholic and Protestant teachings in individual Christians, we can validate how Religion can disseminate ideologies that can be causes or pre-conditions for massive social changes such as the development of Capitalism and the movement of the market economy.
Allan, K. (2005). Explorations in Classical Sociological Theory. Thousand Oaks, California: Pine Forge Press.
Calhoun, C., Gerteis, J., Moody, J., Pfaff, S., & Virk, I. (2012). Classical Sociological Theory Third Edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Durkheim, E. (2001). The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. New York: Oxford University Press.
Hefner, W. R. (2010). Religious Resurgence in Contemporary Asia: Southeast Asian Perspectives on Capitalism, the State, and the Piety. The Journal of Asian Studies v.69, 1031-1047.
Hill, R., & Capella, M. L. (2013). Impoverished consumers, Catholic social teaching, and distributive justice. Journal of Business Research, 32-41.
Johnson, F. (1922). The Teaching of the Protestant Church. Annals of the the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 103, IndustrialRelations and the Churches, 81-85.
Law, A. (2011). Key Concepts in Classical Sociological Theory. London: SAGE Publications ltd.
Merton, R. K. (1936). The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action. American Sociological Review, Volume 1, Issue 6, 894-904.
Micali, S. (2010). The Capitalistic Cult of Performance. Philosophy Today v. 54, 379-391.
Novak, M. (2005). Max Weber goes global. First things v. 152, 26-29.
Radkau, J. (2011). Max Weber, A Biography. UK: Polity Press.
Woods, Jr., T. E. (2005). The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Update on the past RRL.