I came across an interesting article this week in the massive amount of reading I am doing these days. I forget the name of the article (not a good research practice) but it took me to a link where a recent speech by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio was given. The nature of the article was about how some democrats are field-testing some ideas to see how they might fit into Hillary Clinton’s possible platform for the 2016 Presidential run. Rubio’s speech, was referred to as a test-pilot on the issue of “family” to get a pulse of people’s receptivity to the issue. One of the quotes that caught my attention was when Rubio said,
“In America, if you get an education, find a good job, and wait until marriage to have children, your chances of achieving economic security and professional fulfillment are incredibly high. In fact, if everyone in America lived lives that went in this order, in the order I’ve just outlined, some estimates are that the poverty rate would be cut by an estimated 70 percent.”1
Initially upon reading this, I loved the fact that “Christian values” like family, education, hard work, and an actual prescriptive order of life, have the possibility of actually hitting the radar for the coming 2016 campaigning run. Then upon further thinking, I realized these are just “Capitalist values” that produce economic security and success in the world we are living. Then finally I started to think about how interrelated our Christian values are to our Capitalist values and our reading for this week began to make sense. I believe that Rubio’s quote gives strong evidence that not only did the spirit of Capitalism come from the Protestant ethic, it is very much still alive there today.
In his book, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”, Max Weber brings this tension to the forefront of the causal relationship between spiritual conditioning and the emergence and development of capitalism and a capitalist agenda. Weber writes:
“It is true that the greater relative participation of Protestants in the ownership of capital, in management, and the upper ranks of labor in greater modern industrial and commercial enterprises, may in part be explained in terms of historical circumstances, which extend far back into the past, and in which religious affiliation is not a cause of the economic conditions, but to a certain extent appears to be a result of them.”2
What Weber is pointing to here, is the point of the cliche, “Not everything is how it seems.” Or maybe better put, “If things do look a certain way . . . there is probably a reason.” Basically Max Weber makes the claim and gives amazing historical evidence for the surfacing and advancing of Capitalism through the development of the Protestant church and the social implications created by a shift away from Traditionalism, a call to a “called life”, and the overall psyche a population or society needs if capitalism is going to rise and radically expand. The truth unpacked in this book makes a clear case that while not being influenced by the Protestant ethic alone, the fact that most early capitalists were the ones with the capital, the ones with the values, and the ones know-how to see capitalism flourish . . . and oh yes, they were the Protestant ones too.
Webber gives a strong caution and calls for a balance when pursuing a greater understanding of the influencing factors that shape our culture and history. Webber writes,
“But it is, of course, not my aim to substitute for a one-sided materialistic an equally one-sided spiritualistic causal interpretation of culture and of history. Each is equally possible, but each, if it does not serve as the preparation, but as the conclusion of an investigation, accomplish equally little in the interest of historical truth.”3
So as we continue to pursue and “prepare” for a greater understanding of the society in which we find ourselves, keeping a healthy, historical perspective that looks at the philosophy, the sociology, the politics, and the religion, seems like the truly most accurate way forward in our investigation.
1Marco Rubio. “Strong Values for a Strong America”, Speech at The Catholic University of America(http://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=11f4cf83-b8af-443d-89c9-a1c611896f82)
2Max Webber. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Germany: Renaissance Classics, 2012. p. 1.