Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Max Weber on Ben Franklin ("the spirit of capitalism")

Weber tends to generalize about religious character, but his analysis of capitalism as puritanism should not be rejected out of hand. Weber understood what Calvin's strange doctrine had accomplished: it had created legions of pious, greedy robots ( Ben F. symptomatic of the type). American protestants carry on the tradition of the Xtian Zombie, for the most part. Somewhat surprisingly, Herr Weber had words for zionist finance as well. The nazis might have arrested him, but then so might have the bolsheviks (allies with prussians until about 1939), who would not have approved of his non-orthodox leftism (perhaps socialistic, but not marxism). At the very least, Weber's "conceptual empiricism" will irritate romantics, links oder rechts.

""""Thus, if we try to determine the object, the analysis and historical explanation of which we are attempting, it cannot be in the form of a conceptual definition, but at least in the beginning only a provisional description of what is here meant by the spirit of capitalism. Such a description is, however, indispensable in order clearly to understand the object of the investigation. For this purpose we turn to a document of that spirit which contains what we are looking for in almost classical purity, and at the same time has the advantage of being free from all direct relationship to religion, being thus, for our purposes, free of preconceptions.


"Remember this saying, The good paymaster is lord of another man's purse. He that is known to pay punctually and exactly to the time he promises, may at any time, and on any occasion, raise all the money his friends can spare. This is sometimes of great use. After industry and frugality, nothing contributes more to the raising of a young man in the world than punctuality and justice in all his dealings; therefore never keep borrowed money an hour beyond the time you promised, lest a disappointment shut up your friend's purse for ever.

La Reina de las putas

"The most trifling actions that affect a man's credit are to be regarded. The sound of your hammer at five in the morning, or eight at night, heard by a creditor, makes him easy six months longer; but if he sees you at a billiard-table, or hears your voice at a tavern, when you should be at work, he sends for his money the next day; demands it, before he can receive it, in a lump.

"It shows, besides, that you are mindful of what you owe; it makes you appear a careful as well as an honest man, and that still increases your credit.

"Beware of thinking all your own that you possess, and of living accordingly. It is a mistake that many people who have credit fall into. To prevent this, keep an exact account for some time both of your expenses and your income. If you take the pains at first to mention particulars, it will have this good effect: you will discover how wonderfully small, trifling expenses mount up to large sums, and will discern what might have been, and may for the future be saved, without occasioning any great inconvenience."


It is Benjamin Franklin who preaches to us in these sentences, the same which Ferdinand K├╝rnberger satirizes in his clever and malicious "Picture of American Culture" as the supposed confession of faith of the Yankee. That it is the spirit of capitalism which here speaks in characteristic fashion, no one will doubt, however little we may wish to claim that everything which could be understood as pertaining to that spirit is contained in it. Let us pause a moment to consider this passage, the philosophy of which K├╝rnberger sums up in the words, "They make tallow out of cattle and money out of men". The peculiarity of this philosophy of avarice appears to be the ideal of the honest man of recognized credit, and above all the idea of a duty of the individual toward the increase of his capital, which is assumed as an end in itself. Truly what is here preached is not simply a means of making one's way in the world, but a peculiar ethic. The infraction of its rules is treated not as foolishness but as forgetfulness of duty. That is the essence of the matter. It is not mere business astuteness, that sort of thing is common enough, it is an ethos. This is the quality which interests us."""


1 comment:

J said...

Yes, let's do add Bubba's daily death threat to the File.

See you in court, McSpineless

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