Has America Lost the Protestant Work Ethic?

Has America Lost the Protestant Work Ethic? December 7, 2012

I was staggering around the internet this afternoon and came across this video of me asking Dr Peter Berger (famed sociologist of religion) a question at the Faith Angle Forum in Miami, Florida, in November 2011.  Since there was no Faith Angle Forum this Fall, I am left to drink a little wine and watch videos of forums past and look forward to the next time I can visit Michael Cromartie’s fine event:

So what do you think?  Is the Protestant Work Ethic gone from the United States?  Do we need less Bergers and more Fords?  Or if you want to take up the second question: What accounts for the Asian American explosion in college fellowships?  These are not new questions, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard terrific answers.  I think Dr Berger would say “we need more data.”

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  • The Chinese are giving us the Confucian Work Ethic to supplement the old PWE; it would show up in almost any culture where serving one’s fellow man with your talents is prized. If I recall the root of the PWE term, it was Max Weber who coined it roughly a century ago; it was almost as much of a sociological construct than a religious one.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Weber gave it a term, but I believe he was referring to something real and substantive.

  • rvs

    Fascinating video–thanks for posting it. I wonder how the Protestant work ethic looks in the absence of quasi-works righteousness machinery (i.e., success as a sign of salvation, which is theologically suspect, of course)?

  • Don’t forget the Jain Work Ethic.

  • George T

    Regarding the growth of Asian American fellowships, we may recall Paul’s Macedonia Vision when he was “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.” (Acts 16:6) It may be that God has chosen the 21st Century as the time for the Holy Spirit to be working in the Asian Americans communities.

    • I think the “Asia” in Acts refers to the Roman province of Asia, located in what is now central and eastern Turkey.

      • George T

        The Province of Asia was East of where the apostles were, so “province of Asia” was not just a geographical designation, but a directional imperative. If not for the intervention of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel would have gone East, not West.

        Likewise, because Asians not only live in the “East” but all over the world, “Asia” in the context of this discussion refers to Asian people. Not just the geographical locale Asia.