Mother Earth…Weber’s Long Awaited Prophet?

Max Weber’s famous The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism has been long debated since its publication.  For the most part, Weber offers a cultural archaeology of current attitudes regarding work, capitalism, and religiosity.  But, the weakness is the lack of empirical evidence. Many have attempted to prove or disprove his ideas, but the Protestant ethos still seems strong in the United States. 

But Weber did speculate concerning the end of the Protestant Ethic. At the conclusion of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber made some astounding predictions.  As noted, he speculated that Protestant influenced countries were stuck in an “iron cage” and were cognitively compelled to work as a calling.  As a consequence, Weber foresaw no way out of the iron cage of a rationalized and institutionalized form of capitalism except the emergence of a prophetic figure or a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals.  He even suggested that the iron cage might last until all fossil fuel resources had been consumed.  This perspective is greatly insightful since he was writing in the very early 1900s. 

Combining these two predictions, the manifestation of an increasing ecological awareness could be an impediment for the continuation of the Protestant Ethic.  Is Mother Earth’s groans and pains the prophetic voice that Weber predicted? With Americans less concerned about environmental issues today than in 1971 (see recent poll), Mother Nature will have to proclaim her message more boldly and loudly. 

May we hear the prophetic voice.


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