Using material from Item A and elsewhere assess the contribution of religion to social change (18 marks)

1000 WordsNov 12, 20134 Pages
Religion can be powerful under the right certain circumstances for social change. However it can be argued that religion can be a conservative force. Weber argues that religious beliefs contributed to major social change- specifically the emergence of modern capitalism in Northern Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Modern capitalism differs from capitalism as it is based on systematic, efficient and a rational pursuit of profit and profit for its own sake rather than consumption. Weber calls this the spirit of capitalism. Calvinism is a form of protestant that was formed during the reformation. Weber argues that it is the Calvinist’s beliefs that helped bring about social change and modern capitalism. For example one of Calvinists…show more content…
Calvinism thus brought capitalism into the world. Weber claims that religion does contribute to social change and uses Calvinism as an example. In contrast Marx puts forward an argument that economic and material factors were the driving force of change, not religion. Kautsky, who is a Marxist, argues that Weber underestimates economic factors in bringing capitalism into being. He argues that in fact capitalism preceded rather than followed Calvinism. Similarly Tawney sees that technological change, not religious ideas, caused the birth of capitalism. It was only after capitalism that the bourgeoisie adopted Calvinist beliefs to legitimate their pursuit of economic gain. Furthermore Weber clearly points out that he doesn’t argue Calvinism were the cause of modern capitalism, but was one of its causes. A number of material and economic factors were necessary, such as natural resources, a money economy and a system of law. Weber also notes that other societies with higher level of economic development than Northern Europe had in the 16th and 17th century yet still failed to develop modern capitalism. For example China and India were materially more advanced than Europe but it didn’t take off, he argues that this is due to the lack of religious belief systems, such as Calvinism, that would of meant development occurred. Critics argue that capitalism did not develop in every country where

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