The West has departed from its traditional beliefs in Christian ethics. Western capitalism has followed the same path, abandoning its Protestant ethic.
As a result, capitalism is transformed into an amoral, atheist system of ethics that legalizes selfishness, an economic order in which there are no constraints on selfishness, greed and deceit.
The cancelling of the Protestant ethic has become the suicide of the West. Its amoral entanglements has poisoned every aspect of society.
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Egoism is now socially acceptable.
The individual needs no longer to be accountable for his own actions.
In accordance with Marxism, he may avoid personal responsibility by claiming society is at fault for his personal degradation.
Yet, the Western capitalism of greed on full display today, is very different from the historic capitalism that became the dominant economic model in Europe over two hundred years ago.
At the time, this system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development occurs through reinvestment of profits gained in a free market, was closely interconnected to the Protestant ethic, as described by the famous sociologist, Max Weber.
Religious morality as a success factor is described by Max Weber
Cancelling the Protestant Ethic is Suicide: Max Weber examined in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism the sociological connection between culture, religion and economy. In it, he defines the historic capitalism’s dependency on the Protestant ethic in order to succeed.
He theorized the importance of values and beliefs for the development of the economic system, outlining a system of social organization that empowered the individual, his morality and duty towards society in a disciplinary and dynamic social structure.
His point was to show that the advanced form for capitalism developed in the historic West, was made possible by the Protestant religious belief that deemed hard work to be a calling from God.
Virtues such as self-discipline, temperance, endurance, trustworthiness and an ascetic view on the limits of value in material wealth, made Christians dedicate themselves to saving the earned money, reinvesting it and not spending it, keeping up the hard work in order to demonstrate to God one’s godliness.
Much of the same attitude is found in Jewish communities, where the idea is that since God created the world, man is put on earth so that he may help the Creator to make the world an even better place.
This is the vocation and the goal of life. The very spirit of capitalism becomes a spiritual goal, a vocation or calling that one responds to by its punitively stoic, hard work ethic and aim to please God.
Asceticism was deeply tied to the concept of hard work, which undeniably made the Calvinists – whom Weber studied in particular – prosperous and wealthy.
Historic Capitalism: Money was to be humbly reinvested for the betterment of society
Cancelling the Protestant Ethic is Suicide: The concept of renouncing the temporal values of materialistic wealth, yet using the money to further reinvest in industries, strengthen the churches and social communities, created social conditions in which living a simple, earthly life devoid of excess pleasures became the Puritan capitalist goal.
He pointed out that “the ascetic conventicles and sects … formed one of the most important foundations of modern individualism.”
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Yet, as religion declined as a defining public force in Western culture, which Weber pointed out, he still felt that capitalism was somehow freed from its puritan limits and thereby developed into an economic quest for acquisition of material wealth.
No longer limited by the Christian ethical requirement of self-control, the ascetic view that money was not to be used to display wealth but to reinvest it into society in order to – according to the godly calling – make the world a better place for others, capitalism changed fundamentally.
The aim of wealth changed. The aim of becoming rich changed. One may argue that it was here, at this point as it split from Christian thought, that capitalism became the quest for personal material possession and power, the raw materialism devoid of compassion that we see today.
Weber points out that with the diminishing public awareness of the religiously anti-materialism present in the Calvinist Protestant ethic, the social structure and capitalist bureaucracy remained. “This bureaucratic social structure, and the values, beliefs, and worldviews that supported and sustained it, became central to shaping social life. It was this very phenomenon that Weber conceived as an iron cage.
Weber’s concept remains important to sociologists today because the iron cage of techno-rational thought, practices, relations, and capitalism—now a global system—shows no signs of disintegrating anytime soon,” writes ThoughtCo.
Wealth as a personalized project to benefit the Self
Cancelling the Protestant Ethic is Suicide: The 2007 financial crisis demonstrated that financial acrobats, real estate agents and insurance giants had been cheating others for personal gain, and this actually went unpunished. After creating structured financial products not grounded in real value, the system of reliability was exploited, the mortgage repayment capacity of the buyers was not sufficient, and this all led to the consequential financial meltdown.
The big banks were lavishly helped by the governments, evading the consequences of deceitful trading, signaling to the players that being dishonest is an acceptable Leninist “the ends justify the means”.
If the quest for wealth becomes a personalized project, “a financialisation game” devoid of social responsibility and devoid of its initial focus on the betterment of society, it becomes a counterproductive catalyst for limitless greed.
There needs to be, as Adam Smith pointed out, a dissatisfaction to stimulate economic activity and growth—a constructive deconstruction, but one that does not overwhelm it all and cause a lack of balance.
People like hedge fund manager, George Soros, who has benefitted immensely from financialisation, explains in his 1999 60 Minutes interview (Later removed from YouTube) that he advises more regulation of the system, even if the main part of his hedge fund companies are registered outside the United States, precisely in order to, as he states, not have them regulated.