Weber, passion and profits: ‘The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism' in context

Jack Barbalet*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is one of the best-known and most enduring texts of classical sociology, continually inspirational and widely read by both scholars and students. In an insightful interpretation, Jack Barbalet discloses that Weber's work is not simply about the cultural origins of capitalism but an allegory concerning the Germany of his day. Situating The Protestant Ethic in the development of Weber's prior and subsequent writing, Barbalet traces changes in his understanding of key concepts including ‘calling’ and ‘rationality’. In a close analysis of the ethical underpinnings of the capitalist spirit and of the institutional structure of capitalism, Barbalet identifies continuities between Weber and the eighteenth-century founder of economic science, Adam Smith, as well as Weber's contemporary, the American firebrand Thorstein Veblen. Finally, by considering Weber's investigation of Judaism and capitalism, important aspects of his account of Protestantism and capitalism are revealed.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCambridge, UK; New York
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)
Number of pages250
ISBN (Electronic)9780511488757
ISBN (Print)9780521895095
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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