Sunday, December 06, 2009

Has the theory of the Protestant work ethic just collapsed?

By Damian Thompson
December 6th, 2009

Has a young Harvard graduate student in economics dealt a deadly blow to Max Weber’s theory that Protestantism favours economic development? Davide Cantoni has just produced a brilliantly argued paper which takes economic data from Catholic and Protestant cities in Germany from 1300 to 1900, subjects them to meticulous multivariate analysis, and finds no evidence that Protestantism per se made people richer.

Cantoni, whose CV reveals that he is a 28-year-old doctoral student with joint German and Italian citizenship, knows that he is walking into a minefield. Weber’s reputation as perhaps the greatest of all sociologists does not rest solely on his famous thesis; but it has iconic status and both drew on and developed the widely held belief that, to put it crudely, Protestants get out of bed earlier in the morning than Catholics. the rest


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