Questioning the Weber Thesis: Capitalist Ethics and the Hebrew Bible
journal contributionposted on 14.01.2013, 15:15 by Sigmund Wagner-Tsukamoto
Weber’s thesis proposed that it was ascetic Protestantism which supported the emergence of modern capitalism in 17th and 18th century Europe, and that this was a completely new and unique phenomenon in the history of mankind up to that point in time. This paper casts doubt on the Weber thesis by examin-ing findings from an economic reconstruction of the Hebrew Bible, and proposing that modern capitalism the way Weber understood it is already visible in the ancient religious text of the “Hebrew Bible”. By means of institutional economic reconstruction, I show that the Hebrew Bible and particularly the stories involving Jacob and Joseph reveal a conceptual structure that can be compared with ideas of modern constitutional and institutional economics. Through this reconstruction, I find myself in agreement with one of Weber’s early but largely forgotten adversaries, Werner Sombart, who suggested, in a behavioral tradition, that other religions, and more specifically Jewish thought, contributed to the emergence of modern capitalism long before the advent of Protestantism.