The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Work as an ascetic means (motif)

Weber refers to this motif when he discusses Richard Baxter, the English Puritan preacher. According to Weber, Baxter makes us of this motif throughout his seminal work. Baxter continuously refers to work as a means to protect against temptations that represent an "unclear life" for a Puritan. By working hard, Baxter believed his followers could distract themselves and fortify themselves against the impulse to indulge in excessive worldly pleasures. More generally, Baxter's central motif is that of work. However, the concept of work as something important for maintaining an ascetic lifestyle is the more specific application of this motif in Weber's text.

Bookkeeper (symbol)

The symbol of the bookkeeper appears when Weber discusses Catholic attitudes toward God and salvation. This symbol represents the Catholic belief in repenting for one's sins as a means of attaining salvation. Catholics believe that God will forgive them for a sinful lifestyle as long as they perform enough good works to make up for it. Weber points out that this conception of God reduces him to a kind of bookkeeper, who keeps score for all of his followers in order to determine whether they are more good or more bad on the whole. The symbol of the bookkeeper thus represents Weber's scorn for this Catholic approach to salvation, in which God plays a lowly role and humans are reduced to a scorecard.