Boring Post on Max Weber's Spirit of Capitalism

The author of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber, pushes forward his ideas on capitalisms origins and conditions.  In his book he spares no fact of its relevance and consequently, by the end he teaches the reader more about the general history of Christendom than the advent of Capitalism.  For any lover of history this is a good read, for the matter of fact statements, but Weber left some points un-addressed.
Weber divides the book into two parts and his first part lays the ground work for his theory.  He titles it “The Problem” and writes of religion’s affiliates and a stratified society in the sixteenth century, and then on to the spirit of capitalism.  He tells us what it is that Protestants are doing as opposed to Catholics and gives us the evidence for it, which ends up being almost an argument in itself for Weber.  His facts and observations coincide the stereotypical notions of the protestant.  Weber asserts that Protestants are more energized than Catholics and it seems to be an apparent in North and South Germany.  Weber’s thesis asserts Protestant sects, as opposed to Catholicism, are the driving fuel for capitalism to function properly and without their presence it may never have seen the light of day.  Weber quotes Offenbacher when he brings up the Catholics saying, “He prefers a life of the greatest possible security, even with a smaller income, to a life of risk and excitement” (40).  In short, Capitalism is not a vice fueled economy (greed), but an ethic.  He speaks of Protestants delaying their leisure to later gratify; they conclude it is better to make money while they still can so that the future has an abundance of security.  But does Weber leave out the evidence and expect us to just naturally agree?  No, he does elaborate in his second part where he gives his logical train of thought and his own observances to how society has created capitalism as we know it.  He covers Calvinism, Pietism, Methodism and even the Baptists.  He compares with great insight saying that even these Protestants (so full of grace) have their own “worldly” asceticism.  But, of course no literature written by man is free of defect.  Weber fails to define capitalism at all.  Even if he does describe the system categorized as capitalism, he leaves out a simplified definition which might help understand if his thesis was correct.  Not only this, but he does not approach and falsify other theories that might have explained the rise of capitalism.  He does say things like “on the other hand . . . .”, but this does little to give us a broader picture of the debate.
So what was Weber’s idea of capitalism?  His idea of capitalism is either born out of, or the same idea as the protestant ethic.  This ethic is a nominalization “delayed gratification” as mentioned earlier; in “human” terms the ethic is the individuals decision to put of pleasure now and enjoy the fruits of your labor, later.  Basically, Protestants had the notion that it is better to stay working and always profiting than to take any sort of leisure or contentment with their position.  Weber says, “In fact, the summum bonum of this ethic, the earning of more and more money, combined with the strict avoidance of all spontaneous enjoyment of life, is above all completely devoid of any eudaemonistic, not to say hedonistic, admixture (53).”  He directly contradicts the “greed” theory.  Weber does not consider the basic economic philosophy of capitalism.  He denies capitalism is greed, which is a valid claim. What then is it?  Is it just Protestants as a culture?  Is capitalism dependant on a cultural notion?  Weber presumes an economic relationship of the peoples to be no account.  The reader is left with too many questions.  Weber in his book would like you to just assent to the idea, but other theorist argue more.  Weber ought to have asked why capitalism is appealing.  What separates it from other economic philosophies?  Other economies have been subject to greed, which Weber agrees with is in all economies, but perhaps capitalism is set apart from other economies because all participants, in theory, win.  The fabled win/win situation is present in capitalism.  As a business sets its price for its product, only the people who are willing to part with the cash value will purchase it.  At the end of the transaction the business is happy with the money they made, and the customer is happy with the product they purchased; neither of them abandoned, suffering from buyer’s remorse.  He wants to suppose that capitalism (the economic superstructure) was created by the culture of Protestantism (The Base).  This is irresponsible to ignore the economic philosophy of capitalism.  Instead his education made Weber into a man learned of dialectic history.  He concerned himself only with two cultures butting heads and the victor.  It is a fine theory to hold, but it ought not be presumed when your readership may not understand or follow the claims.  For all of Weber’s argument he lacks a complete presentation.
As far as the composition of the book it could have used more falsification.  Weber asserts that capitalism is not greed.  Why not?  He only says capitalism is not greed, because all other economies have greed in them as well.  He refutes nothing here, and if Weber meant it to be an argument it was just an informal fallacy.  An argument is not valid if it says, “Since all elements of group A have characteristic B, then A is not B.”  I had mentioned before his attempt at a non-bias approach by adding sentences with the phrase “on the other hand”, but he did nothing with the suggestion.  He did not actually give us the opposing argument or strive to refute them.  The points he disguised as refutations, were only working in his favor as leading statements.  That said, Weber is clearly a well thought and educated man.  We should take him seriously, but when a scholar publishes a book and it arrives at any sort of prominence they must take the necessary steps to have a completely fair appraisal.  When anybody proposes a thesis it is incumbent on them to not only bring up the best of the opposite arguments but to refute them as well.
It was an enjoyable read and I ended up agreeing with him part of the way.  His points were valid and logical and I appreciated his story line.  Of course there are flaws, which were his ignoring of the economic philosophy and his failure to falsify both his and the enemies position.  Overall, one should not be bent out of shape about these mistakes, but it is good to be aware of them.