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Max Weber’s Protestant Ethics and Achievement Motivation

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     Max Weber’s Protestant Ethics and Achievement Motivation.Introduction.

    What is the most efficient tool of motivation? This question has been asked by managers of many corporations due to its importance for the performance of the companies. The problems of motivation have been discussed by many authors and different theories have been suggested to reflect the hierarchy of needs which are common for different employees. It has been discovered that different employees are motivated by different incentives due to the difference in their needs and sources of their inspiration.Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is currently one of the most well-known.

    According to Maslow, every employee has psychological needs, needs of safety and security, belonginess and love, and esteem. In order to motivate an employee, the manager needs to analyze his needs and suggest methods of his motivation according to these needs. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs regards employees as individuals who have very different needs and thus different incentives for work. However, it has been argued that it is possible to determine characteristics of employees which influence their motivation based on their religion.

    This point of view has been expressed in Max Weber’s “Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”. Max Weber has proved that there exists a tight connection between the people’s achievement motivation and their religion.The paper discusses the differences between Protestants and Catholics in terms of their values and motivation. The ascent of capitalism into the modern world is also being examined and its major features are determined.

    Major attention is devoted to the influence of religious dogmas on the perception of such concepts as wealth and prosperity by people. Finally, conclusion is made about the connection between Protestant ethics in Weber’s understanding and modern concept of achievement motivation.Overview of Max Weber’s concept of ethics.Max Weber’s ideas regarding capitalism have made a large contribution into the world economic thought.

    “It was of course Max Weber, in his famous work on The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, who made us familiar with the idea that religion- in particular Calvinism- was one of the great shaping forces of the modern economy.” (Sacks, 2000, p.23). One of the most important themes which got reflected in Max Weber’s work was the connection between the religion of people and their achievement motivation.

    By his research, Weber did his best to show how different achievement motivation for Protestants and Catholics was, and in which way the religion influenced that motivation. There can be found many factors which determine the most efficient forms of motivation for every person, such as the family in which a person was born, his character, aspirations in life. All of these factors define the nature of a person’s achievement motivation. For example, people born in rich families do not have to fight for success starting with their early age, and they can be not very achievement-oriented.

    On the contrary, people from poor families are usually motivated more to achieve success because they have no other way to become wealthy. Religion is another important factor which influences the motivation of people because it forms a set of values which the person bears through his whole life.Before Weber, some investigations concerning relationship between religion and motivation were conducted, but they were insignificant in comparison with Weber’s contribution to this topic development. Many authors have asked the question about the connection between religious beliefs and people’s achievements.

    “Ever since there has been controversy about the impact of religious belief on the economic actions of mankind. Was it religion, the doctrines of Protestantism, that impelled men to economic achievement? Were the Protestant states more successful economically than the Catholic and, if so, does religion provide the explanation and cause of this difference?” (Geoffrey et al, 1964, p.1).Max Weber has provided a detailed analysis of relation between religion and motivation.

    “Weber contended, firstly, that a man’s trade, or calling, constituted a religious mission in their eyes. The fulfillment of the daily task was a deed pleasing to God; success in one’s trade was a mark of conduct deserving in His sight. These ideas promoted diligence.” (Geoffrey et al, 1964, p.

    1). In order to prove his point, in the beginning of his work Max Weber has provided a research of various statistics which reflects the distribution of Protestants and Catholics in different social layers. Based on the obtained data about this distribution in Germany, Austria, and Holland, the conclusion has been arrived at that Protestants dominate among capital owners, entrepreneurs and high-skilled employees at factories.Max Weber also observed the tendency according to which differences in education of Catholics and Protestants were quite obvious.

    For example, people who studied humanities dominated among Catholics while Protestants were much better prepared for the life in the bourgeois society because they mostly studied technical subjects and sciences. According to Weber, this characteristic of people with different religions was determined by their psychological differences which were formed in their early life. “Even more striking is a fact which partly explains the smaller proportion of Catholics among the skilled laborers of modern industry. It is well known that the factory has taken its skilled labor to a large extent from young men in the handicrafts; but this is much more true of Protestant than of Catholic journeymen.

    ” (Weber, 1992, p.3).Weber agrees with the point of view of some authors who considered the wealth of Protestants could be inherited rather than earned as the result of hard work. “…it may be, as has been claimed, that the greater participation of Protestants in the positions of ownership and management in modern economic life may today be understood, in part at least, simply as a result of the greater material wealth they have inherited.

    ” (Weber, 1992, p.2). However, the wealth of Protestants only partially consisted of inherited wealth.  A large part of it was actually earned by hard work.

    Weber also noticed that Catholics who do not occupy any high positions in politics and commerce at the same time reject the statement that national and religious minorities concentrate their efforts in the field of entrepreneurship and trade. This tendency was very common for Polish people in Russia, Quakers in England, Huguenots in France, but not for Catholics in Germany. Weber discusses the issue of connection between social status and religion. Despite the fact that objective reasons of Protestants domination among prosperous layers of society actually exist, the author still concludes that the real reasons of their prosperity can be found in their psychological differences.

    The analysis of differences between Protestants and Catholics provided by Weber is really striking due to its completeness and creative approach. Weber notices that ascetic features which are common for representatives of Catholicism prevent these people from striving for wealth and success. Their religion states that people do not need to get satisfied with the help of different benefits which exist in the world. Every good Catholic needs to have a pure mind and pure aspirations instead of desire for more and more wealth.

    The religion teaches Catholics to be indifferent to temptations and benefits which the world offers because the highest good can be found in the pureness of the person’s mind. Therefore, Catholics are much more motivated by incentives dealing with morality than with possibilities of getting more prosperous. Motivation of Catholics and Protestants.According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Catholics are guided mostly by the first two types of needs- psychological and safety/security.

    They are taught that there is no need to strive for material benefits because they are very insignificant; therefore needs of esteem are not very important for them. If there is an alternative for the Catholic to act in an immoral way and earn a lot of money or not to perform an action and lose money, they would prefer the second alternative. The religion has a very deep impact on the people’s personalities. It teaches ascetics and does not blame those who are not successful in life.

    They are going to get all of the benefits in heaven, especially if they lead a poor life on Earth.Protestants’ ethics is radically different from the ethics of Catholics. They are often blamed for orientation on materialistic values instead of morality. As Weber notes, Protestantism is based on the following dogmas which determine the motivation of its representatives:1.

          Every person is born sinful.2.      A person’s life is pre-determined before he gets born.3.

          A person can get a sign whether he will be rescued or not after his death by developing skills in his profession.4.      Every person needs to surrender to authorities.5.

          Ascetic obligation is inferior in comparison with obligation to be prosperous.6.      Every person needs to surrender to the place in the world which was given to him by God.Protestant church cancelled all kinds of indulgencies for people, and they were not able to buy forgiveness of their sins.

    The relations between people and God were determined in a very strict way: there are chosen people and well as not chosen people. In order to become (or rather feel) chosen, a person needed to improve his professional skills. He also needed to stay away from the satisfactions and temptations of the world but this did not mean he did not have to earn money. The major point of the religion was connected with the increase of wealth without consuming its benefits.

    Every person needed to ensure he put all of his efforts into his work and made himself very prosperous. However, he had to invest all of the profits back into the company. He had to maintain the growth of wealth without enjoying its benefits. The major goal of a person’s life therefore was the increase of wealth of the nation.

    At the same time, like in Catholic religion, every Protestant had to be ascetic outside of work.Here is the major difference between the perception of wealth and prosperity by Catholics and Protestants: even though both religions argued that people needed to stay away from temptations of the world, Catholicism considered it normal when people were poor and such people would go to heaven, while Protestantism argued that only prosperous people were chosen for heaven. This distinction in the perception of prosperity has determined the differences between representatives of different religions.The typical Protestant entrepreneur was hard-working, industrious, and success-oriented but at the same time modest in his needs and desires, who was fond of work itself but not of the wealth which he obtained as the result of work.

    Every protestant entrepreneur realized that by his hard work, he could ensure his place in heaven. He needed to be prosperous in order to let himself and his family have a beautiful life after death. Catholic entrepreneurs, on the contrary, did not strive for success as much because they did not find any relation between their prosperity on Earth and in heaven. They believed that even if they do not earn much money on Earth, they will be happy in heaven.

    Therefore, they did not have any large motivation for working hard and increasing their wealth.As Weber’s investigations have shown, some authors regarded Catholics as people who preferred quiet life with low income. “The Catholic is quieter, having less of the acquisitive impulse; he prefers a life of the greatest possible security, even with a smaller income, to a life of risk and excitement, even though it may bring the chance of gaining honor and riches. The proverb says jokingly, ‘either eat well or sleep well’.

    In the present case the Protestant prefers to eat well, the Catholic to sleep undisturbed.” (Weber, 1992, p.4). At the same time, Protestants put all of their efforts in the creation of wealth.

    As Weber marked, a Protestant was usually eating well while a Catholic preferred to sleep quietly, even without any food in his stomach. Therefore, it is possible to conclude that Protestants’ needs included all of the needs of the Maslow’s hierarchy, particularly needs for esteem and recognition. Protestant entrepreneurs did not need esteem for the sake of the esteem itself but for the sake of creating wealth and being prosperous like the religion taught him.Spirit of Capitalism and Motivation.

    Weber also devotes very much attention to the definition of the Spirit of Capitalism which he gives in the title of his book. By the Spirit of Capitalism he understands a complex of connections which exist in the historical reality which are combined into one system under the angle of their cultural meaning. The Spirit of Capitalism, according to Weber, was created on the basis of ethical values of Protestantism. Protestantism but not Catholicism was the religion which gave birth to capitalism and created incentives for its development.

    “This viewpoint is most dramatically stated, of course, in Weber’s famous analysis of the relationship between Protestantism and capitalism in which Weber argues that the particular form of capitalism that arose in the West was, in large part, a product of the ideas and ethic of Protestantism.” (Fry, 1989, p.20). Protestantism created a peculiar set of ethic norms which in a long-run created new incentives for people’s motivation, and enabled the development of capitalism spirit.

    “Weber asserted strenuously that such causal links did indeed exist. Protestantism created the pre-conditions for a ‘spirit of capitalism’. The dictum hardly applied to Lutheranism, which retained the traditional canonical attitude to trade. But it applied without reservation to Calvinism and the various Protestant sects.

    ” (Geoffrey et al, 1964, p.1).Weber also marked that the orientation of Protestants on thrift also served as the basis for the development of capitalism. “The second important characteristic of Calvinism and the Protestant sects Weber held to be the emphasis upon thrift.

    A notable thriftiness — pushed by the Puritans to sheer asceticism — combined with the concept of the fulfillment of earthly duty as the highest purpose in life, could not but bring about the formation of capital.” (Geoffrey et al, 1964, p.2).The author discusses a large number of quotes from Benjamin Franklin in order to prove his point.

    In Franklin’s opinion, an ideal man is the man who is creditworthy and who realizes that his major goal in life is creation and further multiplication of his capital. On one side, Franklin describes an ideal man as a selfish creature and regards the ideal model of the world in the utilitarian model. According to Franklin, truthfulness is useful only because it gives loans. He regards the sense of life in obtaining additional capital and increasing wealth, not in getting satisfaction from this wealth because it needs to be constantly re-invested in business.

    Weber agrees with some statements of this theory of rational choice. According to him, rationalism rules the world. Most of the people in the world are thus motivated by rational incentives, such as money, promotion, etc. As Weber states, rationalism determines the relations between people and natures, interactions between people, and rationalism grows with the development of science and art.

    Weber’s point is that science and art are certainly not getting combined into one. Science and art are always going to exist separately, just like truth, beauty and rationality are always going to be different concepts. The author argues that people in the modern world are more guided by their mind than by their heart due to the change of values in this world. Thus, many people are greatly motivated by possibilities to increase their wealth and get promoted.

    However, Weber marks that for Protestants, the guiding force is only the creation of wealth and not greed. Despite the fact that they think rationally, they do not want to create wealth to enjoy its benefits but to increase the prosperity of the economy.Weber also notes that capitalism in Marxist vision can be found in Ancient China, India, and Babylon, but all of the mentioned countries did not have the spirit of modern capitalism. Those countries were also characterized by their aspiration for wealth and unlimited greed, but they did not have any rational labor organization which is common for modern countries of the world.

    Weber states that there is a radical difference between the traditional and modern capitalism which consists in the attitude of a person to labor. For example, a traditional person works in order to live, his profession is a burden to him, he mostly deals with trade, and he works only in order to make a living. A modern Protestant has completely different qualities. As Weber describes him, a modern Protestant lives in order to work, his profession is his form of existence, he realizes that truth is the best policy and his major activity is production.

    The ideal type of capitalist, as Weber states, is the image of this modern Protestant. His needs are never controversial with his work. He has the highest achievement motivation because his work is his whole life. He puts all of his efforts into it and as the result, obtains high returns.

    A traditional person, on the contrary, is not achievement motivated and he is much less likely to succeed in his life.Conclusion.There are many factors which can influence employees’ motivation. It is very important for companies to make sure they determine all of the major needs of employees in order to motivate them correctly.

    Many theories of motivation have been suggested and many connections have been found between a person’s background and his motivation. The relation between religion and achievement motivation has been reflected in Max Weber’s “Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”.In his work, Max Weber discusses the major values of different religions and draws a connection between the dogmas of religions and achievement motivation of people who profess those religions. As the research has shown, Protestantism gives people the largest achievement motivation due to the values which are reflected in this religion.

    Protestants believe that they can be chosen by God only in the case when they are prosperous in their lives and create lots of wealth. Therefore, they do their best to work hard in order to ensure a happy future for themselves and their families. As Weber marks, many Protestants study sciences and technical subjects in order to have great achievements in life. On the contrary, Catholicism does not motivate people to succeed in life because it teaches them to be quiet and ascetic, not struggle for success because earthly benefits are only temptations for them.

    Unlike Protestants, Catholics are not taught by their Church how important it is to achieve success in life. That is why they tend to lead much more quiet lives and be happy with what they have.The views of Max Weber on the connection between religion and achievement motivation can be very helpful for companies in the modern world. However, the requirements of the New Era have forced both Protestants and Catholics to struggle for success and those differences can be observed not as much anymore.

    Bibliography.1.      Breiner Peter. Max Weber and Democratic Politics.

    Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 1996.2.      Doe, S.

    Issues in management. In A. Smith & D. Jones (Eds), Organizational behavior (p.

    234-267). Washington, DC: Lippincott. French. 1996.

    3.      Geoffrey, Samuelsson Kurt. Religion and Economic Action: A Critique of Max Weber. Harper Torchbook.

    1964.4.      Fry Brian R. Mastering Public Administration: From Max Weber to Dwight Waldo.

    Chatham House Publishers. 1989.5.      Langenbacher Eric.

    Disenchanted Liberals: Alexis De Tocqueville and Max Weber. .International Journal of Politics and Ethics. Volume: 1.

    Issue: 1. 2001.6.      Maslow, A.

    A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, p. 370-396. 1943.

    7.      Maslow, A. Motivation and personality. New York: Harper, p.

    175. 1954.8.      Sacks Jonathan.

    Markets and Morals. First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life. August 2000.9.

          Sloterdijk Peter. The Critique of Cynical Reason. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1993.

    10.  Weber Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Routledge.


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