How did bureaucratic capitalism come about?

Trivium

Shortly before his death, Max Weber put a preliminary remark in front of the edition of his writings on the sociology of religion, which he was still worried about himself.

"Universal historical problems", so begins Max Weber, "will inevitably and legitimately be dealt with by the son of the modern European cultural world under the question: which chain of circumstances has led to the fact that precisely on the soil of the Occident, and only here [my emphasis], cultural phenomena occurred which [...] in a direction of development of more universal [Emphasis on Weber] Meaning and validity lay? «1

2For many humanities departments at European and American universities, as well as for the features section, this look at world history is undoubtedly a provocation. Nevertheless, for the "son of the modern European cultural world", as Weber thinks, it is "inevitable" and also "justified". Weber sums up the leitmotif of his cultural-historical research in a single sentence: The Occident is the ground on which certain innovations have come about "only here" and therefore nowhere else, which have not only been of universal importance, but even have universal validity . Even if Weber

3 adds, "at least that's how we like to imagine it", is the central formulation of a position that is today dismissed scientifically from the perspective of global history and in the cosmopolitan feature pages as "Eurocentrism".

4In order to substantiate the assertion contained in his question, Weber lists which cultural phenomena he has in mind here. It begins its passage through the most diverse cultural areas2 with a fundamental innovation in the intellectual area, modern science. "Only in the Occident," said Weber, "does science exist in the stage of development that we recognize as valid today." 3 This statement stands out for its definiteness and decisiveness. There is no clearer articulation of the peculiarities of Western culture in comparison with other cultures. Philosophical and theological "wisdom of the deepest kind, knowledge and observation of extraordinary sublimation," Weber admits, of course there was "also elsewhere [...]." However, such knowledge is precisely not the peculiarity of the West. What is more typical of the West is a "revolution in the way of thinking" (Kant): modern natural science based on mathematical foundations, evidence procedures and experiment, as exemplified by Newton.

5 Weber sees an innovation of a comparable magnitude in modern art, of all things, and thus in an area that, like no other, is a field of exercise for the idea of ​​the complete equivalence of all means of expression. Using the example of music, he clarifies this idea as follows:

»The musical ear was rather more finely developed in other peoples […] But rational harmonic music, […] our orchestra […] our musical notation (which only enables the composing and practicing of modern musical works, that is, their entire permanent existence at all [!]), our sonatas, symphonies, operas - and as a means to that all our basic instruments, organ, piano, violin, all of this only existed in the Occident. «4

So also in the artistic field - where one would perhaps least expect something like this - according to Weber, the West has succeeded in innovations of "universal significance and validity". Art becomes a »training ground for modernity«, on which the universal rationalization process, which for Weber is the core of Western societies, can be clearly observed.

The difference between the leap in development in the West and other cultures that have not undergone a comparable development is particularly striking in the area of ​​political rule.

»De [n]› state ‹in the general sense of a political one Institution with a rationally established ›constitution‹, rationally established law and an administration based on rational, established rules: ›laws‹ subjectcivil servants, knows, in this essential combination of decisive characteristics, regardless of all other approaches to it, only the Occident. «5

The modern state is rational because legally accepted procedures for passing decisions on laws and not assumptions of any kind regarding content form the basis of its legitimacy, because the exercise of power over a constitution is tied to the law and because the administration of the state by civil servants is rule-oriented . That leaves little room for arbitrary decisions.

7The frequent use of the attribute "rational" in the statement just quoted shows what Weber is concerned about. In all of the "cases of peculiarity" cited so far, it is evidently a "specific type of" rationalism of occidental culture. "" 6 This rationalism extends not only to the culture of society (modern science as a highly specific system of assumptions) and on the organization of society (the bureaucratic administration), but also affects the people who live in such a society. "Without exception, any order of social relations of any kind," writes Weber, "is ultimately to be examined as well, what human type by means of external or internal (motive) selection, it gives the optimum chances to become the ruling class. "7 Weber sees this type of person in the professional or specialist group. "The trained professionals only existed in the Occident in any sense that approached their current cultural dominance." 8 The civil servant is an ancient phenomenon of the most diverse cultures. But the "inescapable banishment of our entire existence [...] in the housing of a professionally trained civil service organization [...] has known no country and no time in the same way as the modern Occident." 9 A touchstone for Weber's theory is whether and to what extent this assumption is The culture-dominating importance of the professional population still applies today.

8And finally - to come to the subject of this essay - "This is how it is now with the most fateful power of our modern life: capitalism." 10 For Weber, capitalism is also a European innovation of universal importance and - even more provocatively - of universal validity. Like other parts of society, the economy on the threshold of modern times is also undergoing an epoch-making stream of rationalization. In the following I will explain and confirm this fundamental assumption of Max Weber in a first step (II). In a second step I turn to the question of whether Weber's analysis of capitalism can still claim to be valid for contemporary capitalism and whether important changes must be made in Weber's concept (III). In conclusion, I would like to clarify the profound change in mentality associated with the implementation of capitalist economic organization (IV). Weber was of the opinion that with capitalism an economic ethic came to dominate that was in diametrical contrast to the old European ethics of economic activity. From the deep-seated reservation against this economic ethos feeds the intellectual resistance, which is met with the spread of capitalism on a world scale and drives the search for alternatives.

9 There is probably no other cultural phenomenon that has fascinated Weber more than modern capitalism. Even where he dealt with seemingly distant issues such as B. Confucianism, but his interest in it was at least also motivated by the question of why modern capitalism arose in the European-North American cultural area and not z. B. in East Asian. Weber saw modern capitalism as an example of a new level of rationalization, which in modern European times was by no means restricted to the economic subsystem, but is making a breakthrough in it as well as in all other subsystems. Just like formal law, rule-based bureaucratic administration and the modern institutional state, modern capitalism is also the result of a comprehensive stream of rationalization that began at the end of the Middle Ages and is typical of the "Occident". In order to give substance to this very general idea of ​​a progressive rationalization of all areas of society in the field of economy, Weber has listed several innovations in his work in which, in his opinion, this rationalization of economic activities is reflected. Although these lists11 differ from one another in detail, they always center on modern capitalist enterprise. The existence of markets in which goods are offered for money is not new, nor is the use of money new. Both are phenomena that have existed in practically all cultures for a long time. Modern ("rational") capitalism presupposes transport economy (products and means of production are "transport objects" 12), but does not coincide with it. The new element compared to the transport industry is that the range of goods, although not completely, comes mainly from capitalistically organized companies. The "covering of everyday needs on the capitalist path", according to Weber, "is only peculiar to the Occident." 13 The question is what exactly the "capitalist path" consists of.

An obvious answer, which is also widespread in the scientific discussion today, is: in the pursuit of profit by companies.14 Weber defends himself against the "naive definition" of seeing the essence of capitalist enterprise in the pursuit of profit. Rather, the striving for "the highest possible profit" has existed "in all epochs of all countries on earth" 15. If one understands by capitalism only an economically oriented action with the goal of the unlimited pursuit of profit, regardless of the basis on which it is based, then this form of economic activity is neither specifically Western nor specifically modern. Compared with the "most limitless greed for acquisition" 16 in earlier times, modern capitalism is rather characterized by the taming and taming of this striving. Weber and Marx agree on this. What is really new about capitalist enterprise, on the other hand, is the rational organization of formally free labor.17 Weber also agrees with Marx that not every type of capital utilization, regardless of what it is based on, is capitalism in the modern sense.18 As is the case Marx also limits Weber the term to a "certain type of capital utilization: the exploitation of someone else's work through a contract with the" free "worker." 19 If this characteristic is dropped, then "nothing is more solid than a largely" capitalist "character of whole [...] Epochs of Ancient History «.20

11Two provisions converge in the cited definition of capitalist enterprise: (a) "work by virtue of a formal voluntary contract on both sides" 21 and (b) the rational organization of contractual work. Modern capitalist enterprise is based on employing only workers who are formally free. The employment contract is essential for such a company. It is concluded with people who, as citizens, have subjective rights, first and foremost the right of disposal over themselves. They appear on the labor market because they have no other means of securing their livelihood. Forms of unfree labor such as slave labor and compulsory labor ("the landlord exploitation of those ruled by personal rights" 22) are incompatible with the basic organization of a capitalist enterprise based on contracts. However, working in a capitalist company is only formally, not materially free. Operational work is consistently under the command of capital. It would only be materially free if it were self-determined, i.e. if the content of the work activity was consistently determined either by the worker himself (as with self-employed craftsmen) or by the work collective.

12This formally free work is organized rationally in the capitalist enterprise - the second moment in the definition of a capitalist enterprise. Why does work organization receive the predicate "rational" and why does Weber not, conversely, see it as a highly irrational form of work organization?

To answer this crucial question, Weber refers to five interrelated facts. First, capitalist operations are rational because they are organized in a bureaucratic manner. The achievement of a bureaucratic administrative organization is by no means restricted to public bodies, but can also be found in private organizations. They also use civil servants (in the sense of private employees) who work according to predetermined rules in an office with a fixed distribution of tasks. The capitalist enterprise borrows its rationality, so to speak, from the rationality of the bureaucratic organization. A second reason for the rationality of capitalist enterprise is the "separation of household and business." 23 This separation is rational because it makes it difficult for household interests to mix with operational interests. This separation is fully implemented in the large enterprise with its "as complete as possible separation of the business and its fate from the household and [...] the assets [...] of the owners", 24 but it can already be found to some extent in every small craft business. Thirdly, bookkeeping is closely related to the separation of household and business.25 The system of double bookkeeping that prevails today, based on a writing by the Franciscan monk Luca Pacioli, records every business transaction at the interface between the company and its environment twice: on credit and on the debit side. Developed in the early modern period, it has remained largely unchanged in use since then. It not only serves the entrepreneur as a source of information about the status of his business, but also potential investors and the state authorities. The double-entry bookkeeping deserves the predicate »rational« because of the possibility that both the entrepreneur and his creditors can in principle get an insight into the situation of the company.

A fourth reason for capitalist enterprise as a rational event is capital calculation. A capitalist company acts rationally if the decisions about the expansion of the company, the business fields and the choice of technology are not made blindly or "emotionally", but on the basis of information about expected developments and business prospects. The aim of capital accounting is to control employment opportunities and successes.26 Every textbook of investment accounting, to which Weber himself refers, provides information on the principles of rational decision-making.27 The investment decision is rational if it is first based on a calculation of costs and income an investment and if, secondly, that investment is realized whose expected value is at least as high as that of alternative investment decisions.

Because of the uncertainty about how prices will develop in the future, Keynes denied in a famous essay (1937) that it makes sense to calculate the chances of success. In contrast, Weber is convinced that the economic future under market conditions is not completely uncertain, but can be calculated. Under such conditions, there are calculable sales opportunities, and the costs of procuring production equipment and labor can also be calculated "with sufficient certainty" and the same applies to the costs that are incurred up to the point of being "ready for sale"

A final reason for the rationality of capitalist enterprise is that the use of wage labor is more rational than the use of any other conceivable form of work. In § 30 of his economic sociology, Weber discusses the rationality of using wage labor in comparison to slave labor. Even if unfree work grants "a more formally unrestricted disposition over the workers" than "rent for wages," 29 it is therefore by no means superior to wage labor from the point of view of exploitation. Rather, five facts speak in favor of formally making free labor the basis of capitalist operations:
(a) The capital risk and capital expenditure is lower for wage labor,
(b) under the wage labor regime, reproduction and child-rearing are left entirely to the worker. Slave labor, according to Weber, "was burdened [...] with the costs of feeding the women and raising the children." 30 The capitalist entrepreneur who pays a wage gets rid of these costs at one stroke. The rationality of the wage form consists precisely in cutting off all personal relationships between master and servant.
(c) Optimum performance can be extracted from wage workers due to the risk of dismissal. This threat of dismissal as a means of discipline does not apply to slave labor.
Then (d) only formally allows free work to make a selection according to productivity and motivation among the workers. The slave buyer can certainly make a choice on the slave market, but, as Weber puts it with relentless openness: There is no option of selection in a specific sense: "Engagement after testing the machine and dismissal in the event of economic fluctuations or depletion" .31
The connection between rational economic activity and wage labor finally culminates in the fact that "an exact calculation - the basis of everything else - is only possible on the basis of free labor." let calculate. But Weber omits the problem of how a reasonably reliable calculation is realistic in view of price fluctuations on factor and product markets.

17 It should have become clear that the exact calculation - the basis of everything else! -Based profitability capitalism of modern times is not somehow "natural" but a highly improbable form of economic activity. Weber was interested in the conditions that make such an economic system and its center, capitalist enterprise, probable. At various points in his work, Weber cites the following prerequisites for the capitalist form of economic activity to prevail: first, the liberation of the means of production, especially land, from feudal ties and their fundamental transferability into private property; second, the "decrease in bondage and the increase in individualistic freedom"; 33 third, a legal system that enforces private property rights and ensures that "is judged and administered in a predictable manner" .34 fourth, market freedom, i. H. the detachment of the movement of goods from irrational, corporate or community restrictions.35 Freedom of the market and the order of private property are the two central pillars of an economic order in which the exchange of goods in markets coordinates the economic actions of producers and consumers. Fifthly, there must be a state “in the modern sense” with “a statutory constitution, professional civil service and citizenship” .36 Sixth, a rational one, “i.e. H. Highly predictable and therefore mechanized technology "of commodity production and the movement of goods37 favors the conversion of artisanal businesses that work with traditional technology to capitalist commodity production. Seventh, the same applies to modern natural science with the mathematically exact formulation of theorems and the empirical testing of hypotheses in experiments. Without the "rational and systematic specialist company in science" 38 there would not be "technology that can be calculated to the highest degree". And without the constant flow of technically usable knowledge, economic dynamism slackened. Ultimately, this is based on the fact that competition forces capitalist companies to seek their »salvation« in process and product innovations.

As we have seen, at the center of Weber's analysis of capitalism is the "rational organization of labor on the basis of rational technology." 39 It is the element that distinguishes modern capitalism from the "ancient forms" of adventurer and predatory capitalism. Not only does this type of capitalism need a “judiciary and administration whose functioning [...] can be calculated rationally”, 40 the “modern forms of operation” are rather bureaucratic organizations themselves, whose continued existence in the hands of professionally trained private civil servants (Weber's preferred expression for Employees) lies. A central assumption of Weber's bureaucratic theory also applies to commercial enterprises, namely that “all continuous work is carried out by civil servants in bureaus” .41 There seems to be little room for entrepreneurial action in this perspective. But this impression is wrong. On the one hand, the entrepreneur has a firm place in Weber's analysis as a last resort from the rampant bureaucratization. On the other hand, the capitalist enterprise, regardless of the facts of the bureaucratic organization, is not part of the state administration, but is subject to a binding budget restriction. It has to cover all its expenses with the income and cannot expect that its losses will be borne by the state.42 That is a strong impetus not to operate "in the dark", but to subject employment opportunities to bureaucratic control. Marx saw it similarly. No matter how anarchic the market may be, production in companies is organized in a bureaucratic manner.

Considerable objections that cast doubt on both the central role of the employment contract and the rationality of the event based on it have been raised against this view, which is oriented towards the rational organization of contractual work in the company. Compared to Weber's emphasis on the rational organization of work, Schumpeter's analysis of entrepreneurship in particular sets new accents. The task of the entrepreneur is to "change the course of the process" 43 or "to implement new combinations by removing labor and land services from their usual uses." 44 Not the management of stocks, but the constant upheaval of production technology and the invention of new ones Products distinguish the modern company. Typical of the capitalist enterprise with its constant search for new products and production processes forced by competition is not the employment contract, but the credit agreement. In order to be able to carry out his new combinations, according to Schumpeter, "the entrepreneur needs purchasing power [...] He can only become an entrepreneur by first becoming a debtor." 45 No other economic subject is essentially a debtor in the same sense. The focus is no longer on the relationship between capital and labor, but on that between the entrepreneur as the borrower and the "capitalist" as the lender. The granting of credit to entrepreneurs and thus their indebtedness, not the rational organization of work, is the essential element of the economic process.46 It occurs solely "for the purpose of innovation." 47 In order to be able to pay off his debts, the entrepreneur is forced to do so To carry out innovations. It is they, and not "power" 48 or exploitation, 49 that ultimately explain the "basic phenomenon of the capitalist economy" that "loan capital [...] is continuously paid for" 50 and can be paid at all.

A consideration based on the ideas of Keynes' General Theory (1936) leads to considerable compromises in the idea of ​​the predictability of success. The prerequisite for any investment planning is that the future income can be calculated according to its amount, that statements can be made about the probability with which it will occur and that the interest rate at which future income will be discounted is known. An investment project is profitable if the total income calculated in this way is at least as large as the costs. (For the sake of simplicity, it can be assumed that the cost is certain).

The key question now is whether the company has enough information to make this cost-revenue comparison. For the entire period in which the investment has not yet been fully written off, it should know how high the probability is that there will be a return at all, how high this return, which depends on sales, is, and also know the interest rate, at which the income is discounted. Although these variables are not completely randomly fluctuating random variables, their fluctuation range is large enough to call the rationality of a calculation into question. A large company may have staff departments that conduct market research and are able to carry out corresponding calculations. But the individual parameters of the decision are nevertheless fraught with such uncertainties that the question arises as to whether the calculations presented do not serve more to justify entrepreneurial arbitrariness than to justify a choice among alternatives. Anyone who believes they can calculate the return on an investment assumes that the occurrence of future events can in principle be calculated.

Against this conviction, Keynes has now asserted that the difference between unpredictable uncertainty and calculable risk is leveled out in the probabilistic calculation. »By uncertain knowledge"Said Keynes,"I do not mean merely to distinguish what is known for certain from what is only probable".51 The chances of winning in roulette, continues Keynes, are not uncertain in the strict sense and the weather is only"moderately uncertain«. Uncertain in the strict sense of the word, however, are z. B. the price of copper or the interest rate in twenty years. For most actions, Keynes says, we are only interested in the immediate consequences. It is different with the accumulation of wealth. The success of wealth accumulation will be decided in the distant future. »The whole object of the accumulation of wealth is to produce results [...] at a comparatively distant and sometimes at an indefinitelydistant, date. Thus the fact that our knowledge of the future is fluctuating, vague and uncertain, renders wealth a peculiarly unsuitable subject for the methods of classical economic theory.«52

The arguments of Schumpeter and Keynes certainly make significant corrections to Weber's picture of modern capitalism, but they do not lead to this picture being rejected entirely. Money and credit are much older economic phenomena than modern capitalism. The same applies, of course, to the expenditure of human labor in production and also to the exchange of labor for money. But the fact that capitalists find free sellers of labor on labor markets heralds a new era in economic history. Even if this figure has existed here and there, nowhere did it form the basis of economic organization before the appearance of modern capitalism. Once this form of economic activity has come into the world, Weber is convinced that it is "a result of historical development that can no longer be removed from the world, that is, a result of historical development that is absolutely acceptable" .53

The search for alternatives to capitalism - which is just as old as capitalism itself - is raging against this view. But this search has hardly ever realized why capitalism can no longer be eliminated from the world. Weber sought the answer to this in rationality, which in historical comparison was superior to all other conceivable forms of economic activity. It - and not the suppression of alternatives through the use of state power - is the ultimate reason why this form of economic organization has rendered theoretical criticism of it obsolete and doomed practical criticism to failure.

Be that as it may: Weber's dictum of the "unchangeable fact" has been impressively confirmed by the global economic development after Weber's death. Perhaps the two most important economic changes after Weber's death are the worldwide expansion of capitalism on the one hand and the raising of the standard of living in all of capitalism - in Weber's sense! - conquered national economies on the other hand. Around 1900 the world economy presented the image of a two-part world: on the one hand, a few economically developed countries in Europe (especially England, France and Germany) and North America, on the other hand, huge colonial areas as sales areas and the political sphere of influence of the world powers. Russia and Japan, too, without belonging to the Western culture defined by the Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment, 54 had already entered the phase of industrial capitalist development with a private property regime, the proletarianization of peasant classes and the construction of heavy industry. However, they lagged far behind western developments. A hundred years later this picture has changed completely (after the interlude of socialism). There is just no more a Center of economic development (the western cultural area), but since the 1980s a second: East Asia. Eastern Europe, South America and South Asia are currently experiencing a stormy modernization of their economies based on the Western model, and the countries of Africa are also in the process of integrating themselves as autonomous countries into the market-oriented world economy. If one compares the level of development of the European countries at Weber's time with their level of development today, it is noticeable that they still had their real leap in development ahead of them. The national product per capita in Europe in 1913 was 3,473 international dollars (based on 1990). In 1998 it had grown to 17,921 dollars, which is more than fivefold.55 The multiplication of the national product in such a short time condenses a revolution in all accustomed living conditions that nobody could have foreseen around 1900.

As extensive and profound as this change in all accustomed living conditions is, it does not force a revision of Weber's assumptions. Rather, it is the strongest proof of the success of an economic model whose basic features Weber tried to bring to the concept. A precondition for economic success is everywhere the "autonomous orientation towards employment opportunities within the business economy" 56 without capital calculation and thus without "effective prices" 57 it would not be possible at all.

For readers who have followed me to this point, it is easy to get the impression that Weber viewed the spread of capitalism across the globe as a single success story. However, Weber was far from optimistic about progress. Rather, his analyzes of the economy and society of his time are characterized by a deep pessimism. As far as the economy is concerned, this is not based on doubts about the efficiency of capitalist systems, but on their consequences on a cultural level. This means two things: in a narrower sense the "workers question", but in a broader sense the emergence of a historically new economic ethos to which all participants in economic life have to submit to the penalty of losing their economic existence.

First of all, the problem called the question of the workers. It is not pauperism, or more precisely, the view that the "modern bourgeoisie," unlike slavery, cannot even secure the "bare existence" of the "subject class". 58 "This so-called impoverishment theory," argues Weber firmly, "in this form today is expressly and without exception given up as incorrect by all strata of social democracy." 59 According to Weber, the "integration of the proletariat [...] into the cultural community of modern states" is an "unavoidable problem of all state politics", 60 but this problem is a completely solvable problem, especially against the background of the growing productivity of capitalist economies. The real problem raised by the workers question is on another level. The "labor question in its cultural meaning" is initially only the "most clearly perceptible expression of a much larger complex of phenomena: the fundamentally disruptive transformation process that our economic life and thus our cultural existence in general experienced through the advance of capitalism." 61 years later Weber will add: and this The fundamental transformation process is only part of an even larger complex of phenomena, namely the progressive rationalization of all areas of (Western) "culture" (in Weber's sense).

The problem lies in the “structure of that peculiar 'apparatus' which the' large-scale industrial production organization has put 'over the head' of the population”. "In its fateful meaning" it surpasses "even the scope of the question of a 'capitalist' or 'socialist' organization of production" because the "existence of this 'apparatus' as such is independent of this alternative." 62 Weber was of the firm conviction that the socialization of the means of production does not change the slightest in this situation. Worse still: in socialist factories, workers are still subject to factory discipline, but because of the lower rationality of this form of economy, their living conditions are notoriously worse than under capitalist conditions.

In order to make the working and living conditions of the workers more concrete, Weber describes factory work in terms that assume a completely Taylorist work organization: The "modern workshop with its official hierarchy, its discipline, its chaining of the workers to the machines [...] its enormous, up to in the simplest manipulation of the worker's calculating apparatus "63 determines with" overwhelming compulsion, "as Weber writes elsewhere, 64 the life of all who are condemned to have to earn their living by factory work.

It is an empirically controversial question to what extent Taylorism has dominated factory work in the past. The extent to which it has taken up production varies from country to country and varies between eras. At the present time - at least in Germany and beyond that in all advanced industrial societies in the West - it is no longer the dominant form of employment that characterizes all dependent gainful employment. This is countered not only by the fact that industrial production in Germany only contributes about a third to the generation of the national product, but above all that a Taylorist work organization is poorly suited for the knowledge work that is spreading in all branches of production. Weber was absolutely right in his assumption that socialism did not remove the "rule of man over man" 65 but cemented it, but he was too impressed by this form of work organization to see it in the advanced societies of the West will by no means necessarily determine the future of work.

32But that does not mean that the cultural problem raised by capitalism has yet been put aside. The core of this problem does not consist in the workers' question, but in a completely new economic ethos and, connected with it, an ethos of conduct that runs counter to everything that was valid in old Europe in terms of economic ethics. With capitalism a new ethic breaks through, according to which "man [...] is related to acquisition as the purpose of his life, no longer acquisition to man as a means to the end of the satisfaction of his needs." Sensing the utterly senseless reversal of what we would say 'natural state of affairs' «, Weber comments,» is now just as clearly a leitmotif of capitalism, as it is alien to people unaffected by its breath. "67 Its most visible expression finds this new economic ethos in the "bourgeois professional ethos" 68 insofar as "within the modern economic system" the acquisition of money is "the result and the expression of proficiency in the profession" 69

The historical achievement of Protestant ethics, with its elevation of the pursuit of gain to a moral duty, is to have helped this change in economic ethics to break through. Weber makes a strict distinction between the form and spirit of capitalism. Protestant ethics are causative of the spirit, if not the form of capitalism. But it is a problem in itself what chance the new form of economic activity would have had without this spirit. In any case, this spirit helped "to build that mighty cosmos of the modern [...] economic order, which today defines the lifestyle of all individuals who are born into this engine" - not just those directly economically employed, as Weber expressly emphasizes - " determined with overwhelming compulsion «.70

34 Weber describes both the new economic order and the lifestyle that has been adapted to it by no means in an optimistic or forward-looking manner, but in terms that openly display its pessimistic tinge. It is z. For example, there is no mention (at least not in the »Protestant Ethics«) that capitalism has improved the opportunities for consumption and life chances of all strata of the population and will in all probability continue to improve as it spreads in the future, "Tremendous cosmos", represented as a "de facto immutable housing" in which the individual has to live.71 It is true that Weber speculates with the idea that "some form of common economic solidarity" is fundamentally overturning the "spirit that lives in this enormous housing change "72, but he does not anticipate such a development. Rather, this "factually unalterable housing" forces the "individual, insofar as he is intertwined in the context of the market, the norms of his economic activity" .73

At least in the passage just cited, Weber ties the coercion exerted by the system to the condition that the individual is interwoven in the context of the market. From today's perspective one has to ask whether this compulsion has increased or decreased. The fact that "professional duty", 74 unlike in Weber's time, applies not only to half of humanity but to both genders speaks in favor of its increase. But this change of side is not forced upon the opposite sex, but rather sought after by it. That alone speaks against an imposed compulsion from outside. Above all, however, at the same time as the expansion of professional obligations, which has made professional activity the almost exclusive form of livelihood security, the proportion of one's lifetime devoted to professional activity has fallen drastically

Weber's description of professional work in the "Protestant Ethics" has features that can only be understood against the background of a romanticizing counter-image of a lost world. The practice of a profession is not just a concrete form of that reversal of ends and means that make the acquisition of money for the sake of money the top priority. The practice of a profession is not synonymous with earning money as an end in itself, even if it may seem that way for some professions. The professional narrowing and intensification of the profession is still the sign of a "humanity" which is only deficient in comparison to a "time full and beautiful humanity" 76. All services relevant to everyday life, from school to health care to public safety, are now provided through professional work, and there is nothing wrong with that or inadequate. Weber saw it that way himself. In any case, his description of professional work in § 24 of his economic sociology is free of the pessimistic connotations in his "Protestant Ethics". The element of compulsion from professional work has certainly not disappeared, but in the present day private sector it is based solely on the "chance of unemployment in the event of insufficient performance." 77 In the state sector, this compulsion is significantly weaker. It remains to be seen whether a world beyond the performance society is a better world. At least the exemption from the constraints of professional work would have to be offset against the expected loss of standard of living.

Whatever the cultural problem of capitalism may be, socialism is no solution to this problem. It changed nothing in the separation of the worker from the means of production, nor in his submission to factory discipline.78 Certainly, the compulsion to work would perhaps be weaker, but the standard of living would be significantly lower. One can speculate whether a new spirit of common sense might not be able to bring down the building of the capitalist economic order from within. But where this spirit should come from and, above all, how it should gain the upper hand, is not inventive. According to Weber, its expansion is blocked simply by the fact that capitalism "by way of selection" educates and creates the "economic subjects" it needs.79 However, it cannot be ruled out that the continuation of the capitalist path through development on the Level of the professional nature of the work is made more difficult, which Weber himself indicated and which is a direct consequence of his Protestantism thesis. "The power of religious asceticism provided [the entrepreneur] [...] sober, conscientious, extremely capable workers and adhering to work as the purpose of God willed life." 80 What will happen, Weber asks himself, when the religious roots of modern humanity have died is and the professional term only as caput mortuum is in the world? 81 Weber speculates that the “working class contented themselves with their difficult fate as long as they could be promised eternal bliss. If this consolation ceased to exist, then the tensions within society had to arise from it alone, which have been constantly growing since then. "82 Weber's assumption that tensions within society increase if material demands are not religiously kept in check, can also be made fruitful for an interpretation of the more recent history of post-war capitalism. As long as the technical progress progressed fast enough, the wage demands of the workers could be met from the proceeds of this progress. However, technical progress has slowed since the end of the "Golden Age" in the mid-1970s. Politicians turned to three ways of reconciling the demands of labor with those of capital: wage increases, an increase in government spending, and the deregulation of the financial markets.83 All three ways were effective, but only temporary. Wage increases beyond productivity increases, as in the 1970s, fueled inflation. This policy came to an end the moment the Bundesbank no longer cooperated in monetary policy. The increase in government spending, especially for the purpose of social security for workers, finds a natural upper limit in the government debt that will at some point no longer be sustainable. And the attempt made by the USA in particular to reduce private debt e.g. For example, facilitating the deregulation of the financial markets through real estate loans led directly to the 2007 financial crisis.

Such problems may prove irrefutably that the attempts to save the class compromise of welfare state capitalism beyond the end of the "golden age" have narrow limits. They do not indicate a limit to western capitalism. As long as this, against the background of a growing national product, succeeds better than any other production regime in creating a balance between the demands of the most diverse social groups to withdraw from the national product and incentives to contribute to its creation, as long as the future belongs to it.

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