The Protestant work ethic

Our post in honor of Vocation Day, which used to be called Labor Day. . . .

Max Weber, one of the founders of modern sociology, credited the doctrine of vocation for the rise of  the modern economy in his 1920 book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Now, there are  problems with Weber’s thesis and his approach, as scholars have been noting.  Theologically, he emphasizes Calvin’s doctrine of vocation, which stresses your job, rather than Luther’s, which includes how you make your living but also covers marriage, parenthood, and citizenship.  Weber also says that success at your work was seen as a way to convince yourself of your election (which I’m not sure Calvinists actually believed), while Luther sees the purpose of all vocations as love and service to one’s neighbor.  Luther sees vocation in light of the Gospel, so that such love is a fruit of faith.  Vocation isn’t about the value of your own works, since God is working through you in your calling.

Anyway, Weber popularized the notion of the “Protestant work ethic.” [Read more...]

Lacking any sense of proportion

Mark Steyn tells about a dad who asked his 15-year-old son to hold his beer for a second so he could take a picture.  Whereupon he got busted by the cops for giving alcohol to a minor.  Mr. Steyn puts his finger on a problem in law enforcement that, I would add, is also a problem in politics, public discourse, and the culture in general:  The lack of  any sense of proportion. [Read more...]

Does anyone have power anymore?

Richard Cohen reviews The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be
by Moises Naim.

“Power is decaying,” Naim writes — and he provides all sorts of examples. Companies that once ruled the world (sort of) suddenly disappear. Kodak went bust (in a flash). Two huge American auto companies came to Washington with a tin cup. BlackBerry was once supposedly so addictive it was called “crackberry.” Now it’s nearly a goner. CEOs come and go at a dizzying pace — about 80 percent of the leaders of major companies are forced out before their terms are up, gridlocking golf courses all over America. Belgium veers to the ungovernable; the United Kingdom may not be united for long, the Northern League wants out of Italy, and in this increasingly fractured world, South Sudan in 2011 became the world’s 193rd nation, up from 51 in the 1940s. [Read more...]

From Moral Majority to Prophetic Minority

Russell Moore–identified as one of those mythical “Lutheran Baptists“–is the new spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention on social issues. He is taking a different approach from the conventional political activist on the “Christian right.”  He says that Christians have lost the so-called “culture wars” and that the loss of Christian cultural dominance may actually be good for the church.  He says that Christians need to stop thinking of themselves as “the moral majority.”  Instead, they have to see themselves as the “prophetic minority.”

After the jump, excerpts from a Wall Street Journal piece on Dr. Moore by the outstanding Christian writer Naomi Schaefer Riley, who interviewed him for her story. [Read more...]

Triumph of the Will

In my book Postmodern Times, I write about how the will has replaced reason in contemporary thought.  In my book Modern Fascism, I discuss  the great filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl’s celebration of Hitler, The Triumph of the Will, and argue that the phrase encapsulates the philosophy of Fascism. I also contrasted this worldview with that of Luther, who wrote The Bondage of the Will.

I am pleased to see R. R. Reno discussing the same topic, how today the will–what I want, what I desire–trumps everything. [Read more...]

Social mobility requires social capital

You know the American Dream, that in this country if people work hard and grab their opportunities they can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and find material success?  Or, put another way, that America is a land of social mobility, where poor people can newly-landed immigrants with a just dollar in their pockets can rise to the highest levels of wealth and status?

Well, America has been doing worse than other countries when it comes to social mobility.  What happened?  Among other reasons, according to columnist Fareed Zakaria, is our loss of “social capital.”  That is, the breakdown of American families. [Read more...]