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A Public Service Message lrom the American Income Life Insurance Co.Waco, TexasBefrtard Rapoport, ChairMan of the Board and Chief executive Offices The Gilded Cage BY RALPH LYNN Three generations ago a German sociologist, Max Weber, presented an argument that modern Western capitalism is unique, has a unique spirit, and that this spirit grew out of Protestantism. What did he think was unique about modern Western capitalism? How did he connect the spirit of modern Western capitalism with Protestant views and practices? And how was it that the care ‘for worldly gain which, in the 17th century Protestant view “should lie on the shoulders of the saint like a light cloak” has become an “iron cage.” Weber did not at all deny that some sorts of capitalism had always existed in many parts of the world. He certainly did not argue that the acquisitive spirit of modern Western capitalism is unique. Nor did he argue that the Protestant reformers themselves taught or approved the modern capitalistic spirit. Weber did argue that modern capitalism is different from any predecessor in the following ways. 1.It is organized and administered in a most deliberate, critical, analytical fashion calculated to produce with maximum efficiency. 2.It is not sporadic but continuous. It does not depend upon the whims of adventurous, speculative leadership nor upon the presence of war or peace. Like Old Man River, it just keeps rolling along with an inhuman ponderous implacability. And, as the condition of survival, every modern capitalistic enterprise must continually be engaged in the “pursuit of profit and forever renewed profit.” 3.Since “exact calculation is the basic of all else,” modern Western capitalism organizes and manages legally free labor with the same efficiency with which it orders specialized buildings and machinery and enforces the strictest, most rational accounting procedures. 4.Since every aspect of business must be calculable, modern capitalism is hardly to be imagined without the stable, impersonal legal system of the modern national state. 5.Nor is modern capitalism imaginable among people dominated by magical and therefore unpredictable religious forces. Whence came the spirit which alone could produce and manage such a system? Weber’s reply is that the spirit of capitalism grew out of the Protestant Reformation, specifically the Calvinist groups. This is the line of reasoning. Basic is the bold doctrine that God chooses some people for salvation and some for damnation. A religious leader like John Calvin needed only his internal, subjective self-assurance that he was one of the elect. But ordinary men in non-religious occupations must have some external, objective evidence that they are also of the elect. This evidence they found in worldly, financial, business success. The Calvinist could not, by his own efforts, earn his salvation. But he could, by his own efforts, create the internal conviction that he was one of the chosen few. As Weber says, “In practice, this means that God helps those who help themselves.” And this conviction, together with the Calvinist concept of the “calling” opened the way to the whole of the modern capitalistic system and spirit. For this self-help could not consist in only occasional good deeds of the Boy Scout variety or in occasional spurts of industry. Instead, like factory superintendent, “The God of Calvinism demanded a life of good works combined into a unified system.” And the Calvinist concept of the “calling” did not mean a passive acceptance of life in the niche in which one happened to find oneself on account of family occupations. Instead, the Calvinist was under the stern necessity of choosing his vocation deliberately and of proving to himself, by his success in it, that he had chosen right. In a word, each Calvinist become a monk in the great big world. As a monk, he must live frugally and “work while it was yet day.” The result of an industrious and frugal life in one’s presumably profitable calling could only be the accumulation of savings which could only be reinvested to add to the continuous accumulation. But here the trouble began. For the devoutly religious spirit of the calling, of industry, and of frugality began to be controlled and corrupted by the profit-seeking system it had created. The saint began to scorn not only charity itself but also the unsuccessful and therefore the damned who needed charity. Freedom had led to a kind of slavery. And the cloak lying lightly on the shoulders of a saint had become an iron, though gilded, cage enclosing ordinary men of little faith afraid, not of future damnation, but of losing the wealth an originally religious spirit had done much to create. American Income Life Insurance Company EXECUTIVE PMI’S: P.O. 80X 208, WACO, TEXAS 78703, 817.772-3080 BERNARD ‘RAPOPORT Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Offer 20 OCTOBER 13, 1989 1.14_011. .”06. I _1 I 1″