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The sociological core vs. the historical component of the weber thesis: Some deviant cases revisited

Social Theories of History and Histories of Social Theory

ISBN: 978-1-78350-218-9, eISBN: 978-1-78350-219-6

ISSN: 0278-1204

Publication date: 2 December 2013



To reexamine the Weber Thesis pertaining to the relationship between ascetic Protestantism – especially Calvinism – and modern capitalism, as between an economic “spirit” and an economic “structure,” in which the first is assumed to be the explanatory factor and the second the dependent variable.


The chapter provides an attempt to combine theoretical-empirical and comparative-historical approaches to integrate theory with evidence supplied by societal comparisons and historically specific cases.


The chapter identifies the general sociological core of the Weber Thesis as a classic endeavor in economic sociology (and thus substantive sociological theory) and separates it from its particular historical dimension in the form of an empirical generalization from history. I argue that such a distinction helps to better understand the puzzling double “fate” of the Weber Thesis in social science, its status of a model in economic sociology and substantive sociological theory, on the one hand, and its frequent rejection in history and historical economics, on the other. The sociological core of the Thesis, postulating that religion, ideology, and culture generally deeply impact economy, has proved to be more valid, enduring, and even paradigmatic, as in economic sociology, than its historical component establishing a special causal linkage between Calvinism and other types of ascetic Protestantism and the “spirit” and “structure” of modern capitalism in Western society at a specific point in history.

Research limitations/implications

In addition to the two cases deviating from the Weber Thesis considered here, it is necessary to investigate and identify the validity of the Thesis with regard to concrete historical and empirical instances.


The chapter provides the first effort to systematically analyze and distinguish between the sociological core and the historical components of the Weber Thesis as distinct yet intertwined components.



Zafirovski, M. (2013), "The sociological core vs. the historical component of the weber thesis: Some deviant cases revisited", Social Theories of History and Histories of Social Theory (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 31), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 75-128.



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