The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Character List

Benjamin Franklin

One of the American "Founding Fathers" who helped to draft the Declaration of Independence, Franklin was an important writer and inventor in the U.S. colonies and early republic. He wrote an almanac in which he provided advice to American colonists attempting to forge their paths after moving to America from England. In one of these, he advised people on how to make a profit throughout their lives; this advice included working hard, focusing on saving money, maintaining good credit, and keeping in mind that having some money to begin with could allow one to make even more money. Weber uses this passage as a prime example of the capitalist spirit. He also points out that Franklin wrote this before America adopted a capitalist system, meaning that he may not have been a capitalist, but did embody a capitalist spirit.

Martin Luther

A German theologian who was central to the Protestant Reformation, a movement which advocated for more of a focus on the individual's personal experience of religion than existed in Catholicism at the time. He contributed the idea of the "calling" as an important aspect of religion, and advocated for a more ascetic, conscientious lifestyle. He was a controversial figure of his time; he and his followers were persecuted by the Catholic church for their heresy. Weber refers to him when discussing the beginnings of Protestantism, and explains that Luther contributed some of the seeds for later ideas that shaped the spirit of capitalism.

John Calvin

The founder of Calvinism. His denomination of Protestantism contributed the important, new idea of predestination: that God had decided beforehand who would be saved and who would not, and this decision could not be affected by any human actions on earth. This was a very controversial position, but also one that Weber believes contributed to the capitalist spirit.

Richard Baxter

A Presbyterian and apologist for the British politics of his time, Baxter was a wildly successful pastor who worked in the service of the British government before leaving office. Weber refers to him when discussing English Puritanism, of which he was a representative. Weber believes he stands out because he had an "eminently practical" stance, and because his works gained universal recognition. Though he opposed revolution, he took a strong stance against his opponents. He published a "Christian Directory" in which he described Puritan moral theology based on his practical experiences as a pastor. He was particularly opposed to the striving for wealth, which represented a particular kind of asceticism that Weber discusses throughout his text.