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Weber’s concern with the meaning that people give to their actions allowed him to understand the drift of historical change.  He believed that rational action within a system of rational-legal authority is at the heart of modern society.  His sociology was first and foremost an attempt to explore and explain this shift from traditional to rational action.Weber believed that the rationalisation of action can only be realised when traditional ways of life are abandoned.  Modern people often have a difficult time realising the hold of tradition on pre-industrial peoples. Tradition was overpowering in pre-modern societies.  Weber’s task was to uncover the forces in the West that caused people to abandon their traditional religious value orientation and encouraged them to develop a desire for acquiring goods and wealth.After careful study, Weber came to the belief that the protestant ethic broke the hold of tradition while it encouraged men to apply themselves rationally to their work.  Calvinism, he found, had developed a set of beliefs around the concept of predestination.  It was believed by followers of Calvin that one could not do good works or perform acts of faith to assure your place in heaven.  You were either among the “elect” (in which case you were in) or you were not.  However, wealth was taken as a sign (by you and your neighbours) that you were one of the God’s elect, thereby providing encouragement for people to acquire wealth.  The protestant ethic therefore provided religious sanctions that fostered a spirit of rigorous discipline, encouraging men to apply themselves rationally to acquire wealth.Weber studied non-Western cultures as well.  He found that several of these pre-industrial societies had the technological infrastructure and other necessary preconditions to begin capitalism and economic expansion.  The only force missing were the positive sanctions to abandon traditional ways.  While Weber does not believe that the protestant ethic was the only cause of the rise of capitalism, he believed it to be a powerful force in fostering its emergence.;

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