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Religious Ethics, Gift Exchange and Capitalism

W     ’  study, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism () is probably his most often—and sometimes most
bitterly—discussed work. There is no doubt that this essay has become a
canonical reference in the field of the sociology of religions and more
generally of the social sciences. The reason for this is simple: linking a
religious movement and an economic process is particularly fascinating
in as far as it succeeds in joining two worlds that a priori seem far
removed from each other. Weber is credited with a stroke of genius
which supposedly opened new perspectives and for a long time left its
mark on the debate between cultural and religious history on the one
hand and economic history on the other. However, this perception is
inaccurate. While Weber’s renown and influence are due to the methodological rigor of his analyses as well as the wealth of his documentation,
the fact remains that his approach was already widespread in German
sociology at the end of the th century. Besides, Weber explicitly refers
to his predecessors and audience: Lujo Brentano, Werner Sombart,
Ernst Troeltsch, Georg Simmel, not to mention lesser critics. Between
the first (-) and second () edition of the text, Weber’s
debate with these various authors became more specific as he responded
to their new publications. Surprisingly, however, in spite of comments
by Weber himself on the resistance of Catholic populations to the process of capitalist development, no serious attempt was made to interpret
this inertia.
It is noted but not explained. And yet, Weber states the problem
accurately when he reminds an opponent of the importance of the role
of cultural conditions in his hypotheses about Protestant ethic: ‘‘Why
did the Catholic Church not develop these combinations and a type of
training similarly oriented toward capitalism’’ ()? We would have liked
() Weber M. The Protestant Ethic and the
Spirit of Capitalism, translated by Talcott
Parsons (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons,
).

() ‘‘A final Rebuttal of Rachfahl’s Critique
of the ‘Spirit’ of Capitalism’’, in M. Weber,
The Protestant Ethic and ‘‘Spirit’’ of Capitalism and other Writings, ed. and trad. by


Marcel H, University of California, San Diego [mhenaff@ucsd.edu]

Arch. europ. sociol., XLIV,  (), -—-//- $. per art + $. per page ©  A.E.S.

 
a detailed answer. Weber seems to think it sufficient to understand the
Catholic case schematically as the negation of ascetic Protestantism.
This point of view makes sense, but it would have been more interesting
to see the investigation started from the other end.
However, another well known sociologist, Werner Sombart, soon
thereafter came up with a tentative explanation. In his famous essay, Der
Bourgeois (), Sombart tries to argue the completely opposite standpoint
of Weber’s ‘‘theses’’, at least in the chapter on the role of ‘‘moral forces’’
in the emergence of capitalism. Here Sombart compares the respective
contributions of Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism. He wants to
show that scholastic thought, especially that of Thomas Aquinus,
constituted the theoretical framework for rationalizing economic life.
Like Weber, he considers that for capitalism to emerge, such rationalization was essential. More overs, he shows that the condemnation of
usury was in fact the prohibition of profit for profit’s sake and on the
other hand favored loans destined for productive investment—which is
precisely the aim of capitalism. Finally he shows how in the th century someone like the great Florentine humanist Alberti, in his treatise
on the family, had already defined the entire range of bourgeois virtues
which Weber had found referenced among the Calvinist Puritans. In
contrast, Sombart shows that reformers had denounced usury and
excessive riches from the beginning and that every Puritan sect had been
constantly animated by this anti-capitalist spirit. In short, the Weberian
theses were turned upside down, point by point. Weber responded in his
notes to the new edition of The Protestant Ethic. Once more he was
forced to repeat that it is not sufficient to demonstrate the presence here
and there of rationality in the management of property, a penchant for
acquiring riches or a rigorous life style in order to detect the existence of
the capitalist spirit. Far more was needed, as we will see later. In short,
Sombart’s counter attack fell short, and generally speaking, his lack of
methodological rigor deprived him of a following in sociological
research.
Such an initiative could have come from scholars from the Roman
tradition. However, Catholic theologians or intellectuals generally limited themselves to contesting Weber’s analyses [or those of
Troeltsch ()], not in order to claim the modernity that was denied
them—they would not have dared since at the same time ‘modernism’
P. Behr and G.C. Wells (Penguin Books, London, , p. ).
() W. Sombart, Der Bourgeois; zur geistgesichte des mondernen Wirtschaftmenschen (Müncher, Dunker & Humblot,).



() A Protestant theologian and sociologist,
Ernst Troeltsch was close to Weber. His work
is of great importance for the sociology of
religions.

   
was the object of the Vatican’s severe condamnation—, but to reaffirm
the incommensurable nature of faith with respect to the material world,
i.e., in this case with respect to economic realities.
Nevertheless, the absence of a serious attempt at presenting the
symmetrical facet of Weber’s analysis cannot be explained by circumstances alone. Such an attempt could not be merely defensive; there
needed to be an informed and positive approach to these reservations on
the part of the Catholic world. There had to be a way of seeing something else besides the negative facet of Protestant modernity. In
short, the triumph of the homo economicus had to become less self
evident in the eyes of historians and sociologists and needed to be put in
perspective. The emergence of the modern economy had to be rethought in terms of its relation to pre-capitalist societies, from the most
traditional to those in Europe that preceded the development of the
banking system and international trade.
This reappraisal took place, slowly but surely through the work of
field anthropologists (or their readers) and through research in economic
history that challenged the obvious characteristics of capitalism in ways
that differed from the Marxist analysis. Two names symbolize this turning point: Mauss and Polanyi. In their wake, whether this was recognized or not, other questions could now be asked. The resistance to homo
economicus could now be understood not just as regrettable nostalgia—or
the refusal of modernity—but as the affirmation of an alternative to
utilitarian economic rationality.
As a result, the Catholic attitude could be read differently; it became
just another case among similar cases, and could be of interest to scholars who normally never dealt with the Roman Catholic faith. Indeed,
sociologists as well as to historians are beginning to discover that this
attitude signals less the dependency on an ecclesiastic tradition than the
membership in a culture—especially that of the Latin world ()—characterized by a particular kinship organization, a certain form of social
relations, very definite legal practices, original statutory values and
finally by a way of life that remained predominantly rural.
This world had finally become a legitimate subject of historical
sociology. At the same time, hypotheses had to shift ground: no longer
would they try to explain forms of social relations and economic practices in terms of religion (as Sombart tended to do) or reduce the latter
to the former (according to the Marxist analysis). Rather they needed
() Recall that Catholicism remains dominant in southern Germany and Austria, also in
Ireland among the British Isles, and in Poland,

Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia,
among the Slavic countries.



The important point here is that those are precisely the two concepts missing in Weber. Antropologia catolica de la economia moderna (Dott. a kind of match to Weber’s thesis is available in the form of an essay that could have been called ‘‘Catholic ethics and the spirit of non-capitalism’’. remain in the Roman Catholic sphere of influence when Northern Europe went over ‘‘en masse’’ to Protestantism? Differences in economic development? As we will see. As we know. Antidora. First of all. Milano.  toconsider—followingtheWeberianmethod—howthoseformsandpractices fared better with some religious representations rather than others. but only as a notion put forward by Reformation theologians. He could only come up with a pitiful mass of clichés without any anthropological arguments. roughly outlined here. That will be our task. the word grace does appear. . we must signal in the title of the French version (La Grâce du don) the appearance of two relevant key concepts in this work: grace and gift. Albin Michel. It is essential to understand that the doctrine of grace itself is the theological version of the theory of the gift-giving relation. the question remains: why did Southern Europe. What persists is a more difficult problem. To be sure. Can we today venture serious hypotheses? I will try to indicate briefly that this is indeed the case. We have to look further. Clavero. Neither Weber nor Clavero asks what they are. French Translat. References in this essay will be made to the French edition. ). We will comment later at greater length on the merits and limits of this stimulating historical study.e. () B. Weber immediately sees the objections to this hypothesis. ). Perhaps this domain highlighted by contemporary anthropology since Mauss can yield another approach to the disagreement between Protestants and Catholics and help formulate a different hypothesis about the so-called anti-economic attitude of the latter. Editore. the break between Catholics and Protestants focused on the question of predestination. which is a radical version of the doctrine of grace. i. Anthropo-  logie catholique de l’économie moderne (Paris. by JeanFrédéric Schaub: La grâce du don. Such an investigation remains incomplete. written by Bartolome Clavero. A. Nevertheless. We might we imitate their caution. It is Antidora. The anthropological roots are perhaps more deeply buried than we imagined. Latin Europe generally (but not only that area).. Clavero uses them as he comments on the texts but does not analyze them. There is not yet any English translation available. Sombart had offered reflections on the ‘‘ethnic predispositions’’of certain peoples with respect to capitalism. I propose then to return to Weber’s study and to show how it moves close to these questions without being able to ask them. Antropologia catolica de la economia moderne ().

however. . This appears paradoxical in as far as economic development—especially in its capitalist form—tends to destroy old beliefs. according to Weber. and not the result of somebody’s conscious project. or the congruence between two specific aspects: ‘‘forms of religious belief () The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. stated over and over again that this was absolutely not what he intended to demonstrate. . or even provoked the capitalist dynamic. we have no intention whatever of maintaining such a foolish and doctrinaire thesis as that the spirit of capitalism (in the provisional sense of the term explained above) could only have arisen as the result of certain effects of the Reformation. op. p. it happened. The Protestant Ethic. He adds further on. Lefort remains ambiguous about this debate in ‘‘Capitalisme et religion au e siècle: le problème de Weber’’ in Les formes de l’his- toire (Paris. -). Tawney’s criticisms () and especially those of Robertson () are thus mostly the result of a misunderstanding. Parsons. Weber also cautions against the opposite excess: ‘‘On the other hand. . If then a privileged link developed between the Protestant Reformation and emerging capitalism. With this reminder. but to a certain extent appears to be a result of them’’ ().    The Protestant Ethic and the Question of Grace The Hypotheses of Weber and Troeltsch Very early on a kind of vulgate emerged from The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Weber fully intends to bring out the original link between those two phenomena. pp. . this link seems paradoxical to him: the Reformation did not appear to reduce the religious domination over the individual. In the first case.  . but on the contrary to increase it. ‘‘There arises this historical question: why were the districts of highest economic development [in Germany] at the same time particularly favourable to a revolution in the Church?’’ (). it became a de facto conjunction. For those who are still tempted by an immediate causal explanation. . precisely as an ethic. (underlined by the author). And this would presuppose the existence of very ancient circumstances ‘‘in which religious affiliation is not a cause of the economic conditions. . to liberate the individual from submission to religious authorities. Weber speaks of ‘‘elective affinities’’. From the outset he advanced the opposite hypothesis: it is economic development in certain regions that promoted the Reformation. to wit that the Reformation would have encouraged. Gallimard. or even that capitalism as an economic system is a creation of the Reformation’’. p. p. Subsequently. Right away. which refers to other research. transl. cit. Weber. at the very level of religious behavior. however. Weber adds: ‘‘The fact that this or that important form of capitalist organization is considerably older than the Reformation is a sufficient refutation’’. C..

the important political and economic results of Calvinism were produced again its will’’ (). at least in the  version. probably in order to underscore its problematic and especially non-Hegelian character.  and professional ethics’’ (). according to Weber. What is this spirit about? It cannot be defined. The Reformers passionately proclaimed the urgency for each believer to insure his salvation: ‘‘We cannot well maintain that the pursuit of worldly goods. . it has effected indirectly and involuntarily by doing away with old restrictions. is the rational domination of this impulse. as some have done. We need this reminder in order to avoid from the outset presuppositions that imply simplistic causal relations in the notion of the link between Protestantism and capitalism.. . On the whole. That was to be derived from religious choices: ‘‘We shall thus have to admit that the cultural consequences of the Reformation were to a great extent. They were never even tempted by a program of moral reform. In short. Ernst Troeltsch confirms this approach when he writes: ‘‘What it [Protestantism] has here effected. . and favouring the developments which we have already characterised in detail [.  () Ibid. p. the capitalist phenomenon () Ibid. Boston. the mobilization of knowledge and techniques to maximize productivity. unforeseen and even unwished—for results of the labours of reformers. He may also have wanted to indicate his debt to Sombart who had been the first to use this expression. the strengthening of property rights. the pursuit of investments by developing exchanges.. p. Weber puts the term Geist in parentheses. by the desire to acquire. Weber insists on the indirect character of this link: it is not a causal relation between a faith and economic phenomena but between an ethic and a spirit. E. In his essay Weber does not claim to define what he means by capitalism (which he does elsewhere) but solely its spirit. conceived as an end in itself. by the auri sacra fames. Beacon Press. was to any of them of positive ethical value’’ ().]. This means that the important thing is not acquisition as such but the search for profitability. pp. the use of free labor. p. Secondly. the definition of transactions and accounting in terms of money.. . -. ..  () Troeltsch. They were often far removed from or even in contradiction to all that they themselves thought to attain’’ ().. Protestantism and Progress. That desire is as old as the oldest civilizations and has marked the most diverse professions. What distinguishes the spirit of capitalism. perhaps in the particular aspects with which we are dealing predominantly. this conjunction eluded the very people who were its agents.. () Ibid.

the acknowledged significance of the profession as the earthly task of the Christian. the will to go beyond the traditional framework of even very profitable business. () M. scientific and legal. these forms of rationalization alone were insufficient to account for the surprising dynamics of capitalism. pp. above all temperate and reliable. ‘‘Le marchand’’ in J. Weber is aware that a large part of Medieval theology had already begun to revalorize work (). Also needed was an invisible element. Le Goff. but the reverse is not true’’ (). ). () Ibid. : Pour un autre Moyen Age. bold speculators or even outstanding financiers. It shows up differently in Luther and Calvin. Time. both calculating and daring at the same time. p. financial. ). travail. Quakers). the model is quite legible. .Work and Culture in the Middle Age... commercial. Tr. But in every case. Gourevitch. already has an important presence in Medieval theology—especially in preaching—from the th century on. that the spirit of capitalism meets the Protestant ethic (). Methodist. Indeed. in Beruf. () See J. Weber does not confuse the novelty of the notion with the novelty of its importance. Baptist. an attitude. who adds: ‘‘On the contrary.. Weber refuses to assume that the one produced the other. To be sure. ‘‘The question of the motive forces in the expansion of modern capitalism is not in the first instance a question of the origin of the capital sums which were available for capitalistic uses. shrewd and completely devoted to their business. there is more: the profession becomes the task par excellence—the vocation—assigned by God to the believer during his life on earth. p. Weber. It is to Weber’s immense credit to have made it so obvious. it produces its own capital and monetary supplies as the means to its ends. Temps. they were men who had grown up in the hard school of life. orig.    asserts itself is at every level of social and economic activity—industrial. technical. Good examples are the sermons of the Franciscan Berthold de Ratisbone. However.. cit. Weber (ibid. Gallimard. an ethos. Weber knew this prea-  . ) [Ed. op. To be sure. He confines himself to signaling their remarkable conjunction. See A. () ‘‘Nevertheless. It was not necessary to have adventurers. )]. p. Seuil. It also presents nuances in other Protestant currents (Pietist. Weber notes the paradox: far () M. the spirit of capitalism. with strictly bourgeois opinions and principles’’ (). (underlined by the author). -. A Goldhammer (University of Chicago Press. we provisionally use the expression spirit of (modern) capitalism to describe that attitude that seeks profit rationally and systematically. Where it appears and is able to work itself out. who preached in southern German towns in the th century. It is precisely at this point. ‘‘This new meaning of the word corresponds to a new idea. administrative. devotion to duty. explains Weber..’’ (Ibid. but. above all. culture (Paris. ). it is the product of the Reformation’’ (). Le Goff L’Homme médiéval (Paris. Thus he highlights the remarkable equivalency between the notion of calling and profession when Luther uses the term Beruf. However.

. . then the transformation mentioned by Weber is even more radical. Luther rather naively anticipates Adam Smith. which Weber did not make sufficiently clear. which he mentions in ‘‘Final Rebuttal of Rachfahl’s critique’’ in op. ibid. p. not only in the Gospel or Pauline sermons. To be sure.. Or perhaps not so naively. whose among followers the Reformers and later the Jansenists. What is more. For what is at stake here. it replaces them. To be sure. e. count themselves. . It is easy to understand how challenging that practice would conform to a theological notion of faith as an act of unconditional trust in the divine word. It was already formulated quite precisely in the fourth and fifth century by St. it concerns the devalorization of the generous act supposedly essential to salvation and finally its presentation as an economically irrational act. In this way. This religious legitimization is what provided ‘‘a most favourable foundation for the conception of labour as an end in itself. the doctrine of predestination. More fundamentally. Luther goes as far as to assume that the division of labor itself fulfills one’s obligations to others (). is the whole question of the social relations within the tradition of the primacy of charitable relations. Protestantism and Progress. However.. according to Weber. His thought rests entirely on a fundamental dogma.  had already long been a doctrine of catholicism’’. cit. Luther wants to eliminate the practice of charity as ‘‘good deeds’’ guaranteeing salvation. Weber. () Ibid. Seneca. If the latter are supposed to be generated by the complementarity of tasks instead of the reciprocity of gifts. Marcus Aurelius.g. p. this transformation led to the penetration of religion into daily life. It can be summarized as follows: accomplishing professional tasks is more important than charitable works.. Hyperbolically.. these relations are essential. p. What is involved here is the form of social relations itself. . There is another one which he only mentions in passing and which may be more decisive. . the break created by the Reformation is clearly not only about the religious revalorization of the profession as a vocation. this is indeed what Calvin’s thought shows. Troeltsch says the same thing: ‘‘ The doctrine of the ‘calling’ as a doctrine of the systematic contribution of every worker to the delege naturae appointed purpose of Society. And yet. perhaps. but also in the Stoic tradition of good deeds.. as a calling which is necessary to capitalism. () M. this is not a new doctrine. We will get back to this. and consists in the unconditional affirmation of divine cher’s texts. Augustine. cit.  from having caused the secularization of religious values. p. op. . Weber insists on this point.’’ ()..

however. this is a constant formula in Calvin. Indeed. (Tanslator’s note: Parsons translates: ‘‘the elimination of magic from the world’’. why that which has always been understood as an act of giving becomes an act based on the judgment of a distant God who decides without appeal. nor the Church nor the sacraments. We will have to come back to this later. becomes radical in Calvin. No intermediary can be of any help in the recognition of eternal salvation. however. which remains relatively nuanced in Augustine.. The interpretation of this decision. the phrase ‘‘disenchantment of the world’’ has become common place in English and is therefore used here. () The essential texts of St. De gratia et libero arbitrio (vol. which happened because the ethic turned out to be in perfect harmony with this ‘‘spirit of capitalism’’. and also the most global. ). For him. it behooves us to act righteously to honor the divine majesty.    freedom in the face of sinful humanity (). the abyss between God and creature is insurmountable. nor God himself who cannot change His eternal decree according to which Christ died only for the elect. This freedom includes first of all God’s sovereign decision made for all eternity to save some—the chosen—and to condemn others. Weber recalls this formulation but does not inquire any further into its genealogy or ask why the very ancient doctrine of divine grace—the hen of the biblical texts. is what Weber calls in a phrase that remained famous. neither preacher. p. op. Whatever the genealogy of the doctrine of predestination. the absolutist connotation of which is striking. the charis of Paul’s preaching. What is more. ).. ‘‘the disenchantment of the world’’ (). the link is real and profound. That harmony can be understood when one considers the effects of the doctrinal position of Protestantism. the gratia of St.)  . vol. God determines His choice on the basis of His glory and majesty alone. one may investigate its link to ‘‘the spirit of capitalism’’. Paris. Weber does not seem to perceive that this is crucial. as well as the related set of religious and moral practices. () Weber. no one can be assured of being elected. Augustine—becomes this strange form of divine arbitrariness which determines salvation and damnation. Augustine are (in Migne Patrologie latine. Divine grace is granted or refused regardless of what man does. De corruptione et gratia and De predestinatione (Ibid. of Calvinism in particular. both the individual and collective attitudes generated by this belief. -). Of course then the question arises: what is the use of doing good if one’s fate is already a foregone conclusion? Calvin answers that whether we are saved or not. cit. have produced one of the most substantial cultural and social changes in the history of the West. It is as if that which had always been understood as bringing God closer would render Him forever inaccessible. According to Weber. The first effect. In short. .

. without illusions.  The first meaning is linked to the refusal of any sacramental mediation. and also p. Weber sees here ‘‘one of the roots of this pessimistic individualism. p. the question of salvation becomes strictly personal. of any sensual or emotional expression. () Ibid. . a position which of course is no longer acceptable in contemporary anthropology. But this is precisely how Christians can get closer to certainty about salvation. and the exemplary accomplishment of tasks becomes a sign of being one of the chosen. see Louis Dumont. it follows the same logic we found in Luther. of any ‘‘magical’’ means of attaining salvation. the greater the possibility of certainty. p.  note  on p. For every believer is alone faced with God in the matter of election. Since the individual cannot in any way intervene in the election. there is a more radical break between the order of grace and the world here below. ibid. . The more duties have been accomplished conscientiously and rigorously. as the only means available to the sinner to honor the divine majesty. which today still manifests itself in the national character and the institutions of peoples that have a Puritan past’’ (). For Luther. .  et passim. () Calvinismus und Luthertum. : ‘‘The active energies of the elect. thus flowed into the struggle to rationalize the world’’. p. there is a notable difference. Weber explores this perspective more fully in other texts such as Sociology of Religion (Boston. Beacon Press. We will return later to the changes in social relations generated by such individualism. ). . Troeltsch comes to the same conclusion: ‘‘This form of Christianity [Calvinism] produces a fundamental individualism of the most interiorized and harshest kind’’ (). all he can do is to devote himself to terrestrial tasks. This ‘‘disenchantment’’ is inseparable from another consequence: the affirmation of radical individualism. professional duties supplement the function of the ‘‘good deeds’’. In Calvin. Divine grace cannot be sought. at least if they have been truly saved... confirm this. to give himself over to his profession-vocation. At this point effect turns into cause. Weber describes as magical or enchanted any world organized by rituals. Generally speaking. this excludes any idolatrous or superstitious attitude in the faith. ). For him it also signifies a lack of rationality. As far as the revalorization of the profession is concerned. () Weber. Essays on Individualism (Chicago. University of Chicago Press. . The analyses where Louis Dumont discusses Calvin’s positions. including religious music. Since there is no conceivable intermediary. liberated by the doctrine of predestination. However. This work discipline is what Weber calls ‘‘rational asceticism’’ () or else ‘‘asceticism in the world’’ () as opposed to asceticism outside () Ibid. which makes it possible to live on both levels in completely separate ways.

ibid. p. most important for our present study’’ (). ).    the world of traditional monasticism. At this point. Weber’s analysis stops.. this in no way constitutes a behavior of personal attention and affection towards others. in opposition to the inner solitude of () Ibid. pessimism without illusions. all this resulting in ‘‘this tremendous tension to which the Calvinist was doomed by an inexorable fate. But what makes it possible is each and every one’s desire to testify by disciplined behavior to a life based on the hope (but not the certainty) of election. as in Luther’s case.  .. : ‘‘The traditional American objection to performing personal service is probably connected. and it is even essentiel (). ‘‘any personal relation of person to person which is purely based on sentiment—and thus devoid of rationality—can easily be suspected of idolatry of the flesh’’ (). adds in note . what he thinks should constitute real community relations or what would be a more humane or more amiable ethic. a community of believers exists. The question then arises: how is a community possible under those circumstances? What shapes the form of Calvinist social relations? Nevertheless. or says too little about. the way in which the Calvinist ethic tends to dismiss traditional social relations without being able to institute others of comparable strength. a fact which is indeed. p. Thus.. Dutch and American Puritans were characterized by the exact opposite of the joy of living. i. In summarizing all the attitudes of denominations of the Calvinist faith. () Ibid. p. besides the other important causes resulting from democratic feelings. In many passages of his study he seems to grant Catholicism this advantage. the solitude of the subject cut off from any intermediary. Indeed Weber notes a number of characteristics such as the suspicion of others (). admitting of no mitigation’’ (). p. it seems that Weber passes too fast over an essential point mentioned above. for this spirit is not limited to the requirement of methodical and honest work. . . as we shall see. However. so the Puritan aims at self mastery in the rigorous and methodical exercise of his profession. at least indirectly to that tradition’’. On the contrary. Weber does not hesitate to state: ‘‘the English. at least with one of its aspects. () Troeltsch recalls Calvin’s ambition to constitute a kind of ‘‘sacred community’’ (see Calvinismus und Luthertum.. In this respect —without having aimed for it nor even understood it—the Protestant ethic found itself in remarkable harmony with the spirit of capitalism. () Ibid. While he does give an admirable description of the effects of this excessively harsh or even inhuman ethic. he does not say. () Weber. . And yet.e.. Just as the monks were seeking mastery of the body and desires by observing precise rules applied at every moment of the day. as Weber admits.

What does he mean by this? We are dealing here more with () Ibid.. () Op. This is the disappearance of what Weber calls ‘‘the religious ethic of fraternity’’. but more objective and neutral. rewritten in . The major social effects of the break between the Protestants and the Church of Rome are probably most noticeable at this level of the expression of sensibility and community relations. -. in the widest sense of the word. If indeed for Protestants divine grace is manifested in the acceptance of the profession-vocation (Beruf). and absolution. The question remains: what older relations were abandoned and why did the Catholic tradition continue to be faithful to them? And with what consequences for the economy? Grace. accordingly. which is only alluded to in The Protestant Ethic. pp. Ibid. By going back to this theme. cit.]. repentance. It is also at that level that the difference between Catholic ‘‘traditionalism’’ and Protestant ‘‘modernity’’ can be found. this means in fact that henceforth social relations will have to be established through this activity. That is why. of metaphysics or ethics [. functional. followed once again by sin’’ ().  (my underlining). And. -. Catholicism entered into a much deaper and more vigorous union with Renaissance art than Protestantism did’’ (). Troeltsch adds later: ‘‘[Protestantism] never elevated artistic feeling into the principle of a philosophy of life... more at home with sensuousness. I believe we can define a crucial issue of which Weber had an inkling but which lies beyond the horizon of his problematic. it is absolutely opposed to it in principle’’. entitled ‘‘ Religious Rejections of the world . than Protestantism.  the Calvinist.. authentically human. That was why it repelled the Renaissance. Weber proposes the concept of fraternity in the framework of his research on religions concerned with salvation and deliverance (Erlosung) (). () The most important text in this domain is that of . modern art everywhere proves the end of Protestant ascetism. he speaks of the Catholic. appears more insistently in other texts. to-and-fro between sin. those are solid relations. Even though he does not pose the question in these terms. to be sure. They are relations without affect.. p..e. Troeltsch extends the question to the field of aesthetics: ‘‘Catholicism is in fact. Weber is right in considering this an extraordinary revolution. pp. Protestantism and the Crisis of the Gift Relation The dimension of the ‘‘disenchantment of the world’’.  also. This remains rather allusive and needed to be elaborated. We could also speak of the ‘‘disenchantment of the community’’. i.

and ed.. define the cost of every productive activity. material mutual aid for subsistence.e.. ) finally. According to Weber.    prophetic or ascetic movements inside established religions such as Hinduism. mutual support in suffering. we are dealing here with the offer of love for just anybody. as Jesus demands for instance). ‘‘Les Foules’’. the ethic of fraternity prohibits interest bearing loans. () W. Finally. obtain interest for the investment of capital to be productive. La Pléïade. Such an ethic implies first of all the exchange of gifts and services. We are interested in that last point. p.  .. () Ibid. explains Weber. Christianity and Islam. and their Directions’’. Essays in Sociology (G H. at a given point the religious ethic of fraternity ran into deep conflict with the very movement of economic development. Weber calls this the ‘‘religious ethic of brotherliness’’ (). ) the search for a spiritual method that makes it possible to obtain regularly inner goods (such as peace of mind). on a more general level this ethic turns every relation with others into a personal relation and eludes the rational scrutiny of situations in favor of an affective attitude. a foreigner or even an enemy. trad. which Baudelaire defined as the ‘‘holy prostitution of the soul’’ () so characteristic of Christian love. This unworldly love requires on the one hand the repression of kinship relations (to cut oneself off from one’s family. that the leap towards universal love can occur. at first limited to a ‘‘neighborhood grouping’’. Oxford University Press. They can appear as the softening of hierarchical relations: the powerful must help and protect the weak.. These movements generally present the following characteristics: ) an attempt to interiorize beliefs and thus the devaluation of rituals and ‘‘magical’’ practices to attain salvation. it is precisely on the basis of the communal experience of fraternity. The effects on social life are important. a stranger. but on the other hand it establishes a community where relations between members are modeled on the forms of ‘‘natural kinship’’ (Sippe). At the economic level. I. H.. on the basis of personal exchanges. and W Mills C. Now. Judaism. ). passim. in Œuvres complètes (Paris. i. ). New York. from one’s clan. encourages voluntarism and the sharing of wealth. Now. asceticism is one of the possible but not necessary variants. towards altruistic and generous relations with whomever. an attempt at sublimating one’s relations with others to the point of universal or unworldly love which makes any human a being worthy of the attention and the love of the believer. This movement establishes a rationality that must put aside personal involvement in the exchange of goods. in W M. t.

that amply described ceremonies of reciprocal gift exchanges.  Thurnwald who. Nevertheless. had produced first-rate knowledge.. Transaction Books. Even if Weber had lived longer. such as those of Boas or Thurnwald. not until .. He is not interested in its genealogy.e. This confusion is widely shared by other theoreticians of exchange such as Simmel in his Philosophy of Money []. there are scarcely any allusions to them in his texts. while the Catholic tradition remained attached to ‘‘the religious ethic of fraternity’’. Why does Weber not dwell on the description and analysis of the world of gift exchanges. those results. Given his usual methodological flair. i. there is no reason to believe that this problematic would have interested him more from a theoretical point of view (). two years after Weber’s death and Mauss’ The Gift.  and for transactions to be efficient avoid bargaining and have set prices. it concerns the opposition between generous relations—acts of gift exchange and profitable relations. In any case. besides his research on ancient Egypt. there remains something enigmatic. . However. were a prelude to Malinowsky’s investigation of the gift exchanges on the Trobiand Islands. and especially German scholarship. and admired by Mauss. but only as incipient forms of trade. he limited himself to the great civilizations and their religions. published in . i. the doctrine of predestination is the radicalization of the doctrine of grace. In his research. there were publications. but only in as far as in Protestantism it is the source of the radical break between the perspective of faith and that of ‘‘asceticism in the world’’. several aspects of which he glimpsed? There are several reasons. Malinowsky’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific does not appear until . () Sometimes Weber mentions gift exchanges in his General Economic history (London. Weber had very little curiosity about the so-called primitive societies. where scholarship. It is important for us to review the main elements of this significant dossier because this question is at the heart of the ethic of fraternity. at least in the Christian formulation. As we have seen above. The first is that the issue was not really considered then as a sociological or anthropological problem. the role of the concept of grace and the doctrine of predestination in the disagreement between Protestants and Catholics. To be sure. he felt perhaps that the available documentation in this area was still weak and poorly organized.e. This gives us a clearer picture. Weber suggests this on several occasions. Neither Weber nor Simmel paid attention to the work of their colleague R. ). which is the theological version of the concept of the gift exchange. had done fieldwork in the Bismarck and Salomon Islands in Melanesia. market activity. Weber does indeed take this doctrine very seriously. known to Weber. It so happens that the Protestant ethic met those requirements without having aimed to do so.

The Elementary Structures of Kinship. Testart. nor a charitable act. Hé. Gifts and Commodities (San Diego. It is important nevertheless to recall here a few basic elements in order for our argument to be coherent. M. Bell. l’argent. The more the act is perceived as discreet and sincere. First of all. C. ). Inalienable Possessions. Fayard. Hals (Norton. Mc Gill Queen’s University Press. that of the rich man toward the poor. Godelier. A. Jacques Godbout and Alain Caillé. Mauss. ). A. What Mauss taught us and which numerous studies in contemporary anthropology have fully confirmed is that the system of gift exchange represents the fundamental form of expression of relations between groups in traditional societies. If we were able to determine in what way the ethic of fraternity discussed by Weber is indeed an essential version of the problematic of the gift exchange. J. Des dons et des dieux (Paris. A. [] translated by W. Colin. London. L’Enigme du don (Paris. translated by J. To give is an altruistic act which arouses the respect of others. The World of the Gift (Montreal. Finally it was perceived as an act of moral generosity of a friend toward his close relatives. Dutton. Needham (Boston. University of California Press. von Sturmer and R. ). La Ronde des échanges (Paris. nor simple politeness. Seuil. On the basis of this notion one then proceeds to forms of gift exchange that are more socially coded or institutionalized. ). ). the greater the respect. University of Chicago Press. Big-Men and Ceremonial Exchange in Mount HagenNewGuinea (Cambridge. or it was considered as one of the numerous expressions of courtesy which were lavished among groups or villages during certain celebrations.. R. the anthropological documentation of ritual gift exchanges is one of the most solid and most fascinating in modern anthropology (). Strathern. orig. M. We will assume that the reader is familiar with the main outlines of the issue. H. Academic Press. D. M. It needs to be () M.  . N. Beacon Press. Argonauts of the Western Pacific (New York. essentially in the wake of Mauss.    Today however. The Rope of Moka. ). Annette Weiner. From the outset we tend to understand this notion in moral terms. our approach needs be critical of the very concept of the gift exchange. They were seen as analogous forms of our own traditions of the gift exchange.Y. Le Prix de la vérité : le don. then we could shed another light on the issues raised by the process of the ‘‘disenchantment of the world’’. ). Maison des Sciences de l’homme. C. There is no question here of reopening the scholarship on the gift exchanges or presenting the theory again. Stone Age Economics (Chicago. Malinowski. Lévi-Strauss. ). ) [Ed. ). it is neither trade. Gregory. The Enigm of the Gift (University of Chicago Press. the Paradox of Keeping while Giving (Berkeley. The Gift. Cambridge University Press. or of a host toward his guests. Iteanu. B. ). A. Before Mauss’ essay it was commonplace to classify the phenomenon of the gift exchange among archaic forms of commerce. However. la philosophie (Paris. S. in its social form the gift exchange cannot be reduced to any of these practices. ). )].

At the least it may profoundly distort the understanding of the traditional system of gift exchange. To give is both to give up what one gives and to impose oneself upon another with what one gives. These acts of recognition and the goods that are their pledges. In short. peace concluded at the edge of a possible conflict. Malinowski underlines its importance: ‘‘I shall call an action ceremonial. and then only in ritual circumstances. () carried on under observance of definite formalities.  said that the approach which moves backwards from the ethical gift to the ceremonial gift and evaluates the latter by the yardstick of the former. It is both an offering and a challenge. an agreement on the verge of disagreement. It is always simultaneously a self affirmation and the recognition of the other. nor a charitable objective. To be sure. Most often those goods do not leave the circuit of gift exchanges. even among shepherd peoples where the livestock is destined for ceremonial exchanges and very little meat is consumed. a wager. it is a benevolent act but also a challenge. institute intense relations. How then should the ceremonial gift exchange be defined? The definition of ceremonial gift exchange may be applied to the set of procedures by which a group. festive food or drink) do not aim at enriching the partner but at honoring him. only by correctly establishing the specificity of the latter can the nature of the moral gift be understood. To say that the relation of gift exchange allows for reciprocal recognition means that for human societies it is their own particular mode of establishing relations and maintaining them. livestock. the act of giving has neither a utilitarian objective. Hopefully we might then be able to consider the question of the ethic of fraternity from a different perspective. the provocation as well as the gratification of the other. at showing the importance attached to the relation established with him. or an individual in the name of a group. reli . the most important of which is the matrimonial alliance. wrought objects. a risky move of the self towards the other. by words or acts of respect. This is why such relations are imbued with formalism and what explains their ceremonial character. not even in terms of domestic economy. by generally showing deference. () if it has sociological. The concepts of recognition and relation are essential here. shells. game and pact. On the contrary. Giving is an act of recognition because it is neither a question of exchanging goods nor of meeting the needs of the other. is irrelevant. The precious goods that are offered (jewels. recognizes another group by offering it goods considered precious. fabrics. if it is () public.

. the relations established between partners are above all personal. to be part of the community or not. . p. cit. and carries with it obligations’’ ()..e. it is because one ‘owes’ oneself—one’s person and one’s goods—to others’’ (). the system of the ceremonial gift exchange constitutes a tight network of bilateral relations through persons. reconciliation rites. First.. At this level it is pointless to ask whether a gift can be a gift when it is compulsory. members of the clan and their chief. () Ibid. or magical import. etc. Of course. i.). in two ways. It would mean unduly projecting on the ceremonial gift the question of the moral gift. Mauss. Mauss insists: ‘‘by giving one is giving oneself. For Mauss. Hence the obligation of receiving and giving in return.    gious. as in the Kwakiutl potlatch. or chosen partners. It is a social one. E. The Argonauts of the Western Pacific (New York. Obviously. op. whether one is more or less benevolent or generous. Giving is compulsory precisely because it is the primordial way of recognizing the other and of constituting relations between groups.g. and if one gives oneself. P. But what are those ceremonial obligations Malinowsky is talking about? Mauss was probably the first to identify them clearly. there are public festivals between groups. it can be summarized in a principle: ‘‘To go outside oneself involves free and obligatory giving’’ ().  . () M. as for instance in the Trobiandan kula. because to give is to give something of oneself or more precisely. these relations are personal because exchanges most often take place between statutory partners such as brothers-in-law. They are giving. i.  (underlined by Mauss). we are dealing with institutional acts even when in certain cases the relations only exist between individuals. but even then they happen through the mediation of the chiefs. and first of all to make matrimonial alliance possible.e. p. this () B. Dutton. ). Malinowski. according to the position in the kinship or the hierarchy) or the circumstances (weddings. In short. receiving and returning. The problem is not a moral one..e. this obligation is never general. giving in return. i. To refuse a gift... . or to fail to respond in time with a counter gift is to deny the recognition that is offered and to enter into conflict. it is always determined precisely according to the status of the partners (e. hence the numerous forms of magical protection surrounding these relations where one is exposed to each other. seasonal holidays. To be sure. it is to give oneself in the thing that is offered and which constitutes the token of that act. deaths. Besides. However. p. Secondly. chiefs among themselves. no matter how institutional and public the practice of the gift exchange.

cannot unite men.’’ which implicates the entire society in all its facets. it is the very expression of its being. the image of an powerful outside authority can be decisive in the idea of an asymmetrical gift. and in the recognition of the written law as imposing the same obligations on all. Referring to the myth of Prometheus in the Protagoras. but with a ‘‘total social phenomenon. the supreme God. Even if we only wanted to read the story in the Protagoras metaphorically. However. we would still have to deal with the Greek experience of the charis. gives to humankind and which allows them to form a civic community.. Oxford University Press. we are not dealing here with simple politeness. This complex phenomenon took place through a progressive lessening of the role of the clans—gené—. p. The passage from segmentary to political society calls for capping the bilateral reciprocal link with a multilateral collective link. we most often find that practices of gift exchange are maintained and remain relatively unaffected by the appearance of a central administration. through the emergence of a shared public space. Rapidly summarized. At this point we face a question which will lead us back to Weber and the problem of grace: what happens when segmentary societies are included in a larger institutional whole. that is the advent of political society in ancient Greece. an affective link that circulates among them but proceeds from a unique source. . Cornford (London. such as an empire. and the related professions. these are the essential characteristics of the procedure of recognition and community foundation. But he understands quite well that this explanation is insufficient.  . The Republic. translated by F. According to Mauss. For that a divine gift is necessary. as the public form of charm. It must be noted that this ceremonial and bilateral form is characteristic of segmentary societies where the kinship system is identified with social organization. or change into a type of political society themselves? In the first case. either as unequal (the subordinate cannot really give in return) or unilateral (only the superior can give). ).M. he gives us another answer: it is the philia that Zeus. th ed. The second case could be considered particularly interesting in that it has left its mark on the Western tradition. One might then ask what links members of the city to one another? Plato first answers that this link is formed by reciprocal need (). One could say that the idea of grace is already emerging in this mutation. This story says it all: needs alone.  gives us a hint on how to expand on the Weberian opposition between the personal and the impersonal. as that which unites the () Plato.

Give. except perhaps in encounters and festivals. ). Imitate in this way the gods who give us life. this does not seem to really correspond to the charis of the city.  (Paris. Finally Seneca ends up by saying: ‘‘God bestows without any expectation of return. in other words. the moral gift proper. It is the type of gift celebrated by Seneca in De Beneficiis. Editions Belles Lettres. Gallimard. This is the type of generous gift analyzed and encouraged by the Nichomachian Ethics. Hén means the gift. It is generally agreed that the term hén in Hebrew corresponds to the Greek charis and the Latin gratia. While Greek grace concerns foremost the visible world and flows back towards the act. () C. there is a surprising correspondence between this affirmation and the Christian idea of grace. he has no more need of our gifts than we are in a position to give him any’’ (). the growth of plants.  .    citizens in the worship of beauty that transcends them all and is given to all (). J. ). which gives the text a monotheistic flavor. Mesopotamia: Writing. ). ). . Reasoning and the Gods (University of Chicago Press. Hén designates two aspects of one and the same reality: first of all. to look down indulgently) is common to all cultures and religions of the ancient Middle-East (). p. Paul’s preaching. but an act of mutual aid. light. Maier. it is also the time when the requirement of the individual gift is formulated. the act of generous benevolence from a highly placed figure towards an inferior. This conception of the favor granted by a superior to an inferior (the connotation of hén is the attitude of leaning forward. he says. of the only God. La plus vieille religion (Paris. which is profoundly alien to the ceremonial gift. ). which in turn gives rise to the idea of charm or even beauty that can be applied more generally to people or things. Politik und Anmut (Berlin. () De Beneficiis. IV-IX. Le monde de la Bible (Paris. At the same time the idea of a collective gift emerges. Lemaire. biblical grace belongs to the act and can subsequently extend towards the visible world. or rather generous act. () A. in short all the blessings of nature. J. give without counting. that is a civic link which compensates for the disappearance of the ceremonial gift exchange. which itself is profoundly indebted to the entire biblical heritage and which we should now review briefly. Bottero. from gods to God. To call it a moral gift means that it becomes a virtue and no longer in the first instance an act of reciprocal recognition. Siedler. Bottéro. left to individual initiative. which makes it possible to think the unity of the city as such. Besides the passage from the plural to the singular. This occurs at a time when it becomes prominent in St. Gallimard. It also expresses the content of this favor.

The partners go between the two halves and then commit themselves with an oath. they elude that of earthly kings.. the biblical texts put the alliance at the heart of the belief in the only God.] are sanctioned by the divine sovereign when they replace the prescriptions of the overlord in vassalage treaties’’ (). Such a pact is concluded ritually around a sacrifice involving dividing the victim. of the pharaoh or the little rulers of the Canaan city-states. . berith. but it comes from above: ‘‘You have seen what I have done to Egypt and how I carried you on the wings of eagles and had you come to me. the one and only God himself proposes the pact that unites them. This is an extreme case of the spiritual radicalism typical of peoples of the desert or the steppe. There does not seem to be another example of an alliance between a god and a people. p. And now. p. if you listen carefully to my () See A. They affirm their complete independence and at the same time cement their union.  In the biblical texts the image of God as a generous giver is a permanent feature structuring three essential aspects of the Hebraic religion: the election. This means that no human authority could intervene between God and his people. ‘‘La religion d’Israel’’ in Histoire des Religions (Paris. This is certainly a bold presentation. in two.  () Ibid. vol. the law. The offer was not solicited. But a special meaning of berith concerns the vassalage pact established between a powerful protector and an individual (or group) placing himself under the former’s protection and in his dependency. I. is a term that normally designates all sorts of pacts between individuals or groups such as mutual aid or peace agreements. While it is clearly modeled on the vassalage pact. some memorial will then mark the occasion: a tree will be planted or a stone erected. Alliance. the alliance represents the privilege of being elected. it has nevertheless a special feature: the commitment is presented as having been initiated by the overlord himself. the alliance. this was a way of giving themselves a purely religious royalty. more often than not dominated by its neighbors. . .. () Ibid.).. . For this small people of shepherds rebelling against the practices and life styles of the urbanized peoples surrounding it. p. Starting with the very first documents (). a king who was at the same time the unique and invisible God. For this poor nomadic people. most often a calf. The berith proclaims the following: by choosing his people. Gallimard. For ‘‘the children of Israel’’ any other overlord is by definition excluded: ‘‘By submitting through an alliance to the authority of a god.  sq. ‘‘this motif seems to be a peculiarity of the religion of Israel’’ (). for the rules and the laws [. Caquot.. The notion of alliance is particularly interesting for us.

i. Greek tragedy testifies to this crisis. The practice of the generous act. as in Greece for instance. Then it becomes necessary to invent a link for the new community. you will be for me my personal property among all the peoples. and its variety of versions in the Greek charis or the biblical hén. ). a holy nation’’ (Exodus. And you will be for me a kingdom of priests. which is totally original in the context of vassalage pacts. The collectivity has to be wholly enclosed in relations that will ensure its unity.e. sovereign. hén. IX. As we have seen. We could probably situate what Weber calls the ‘‘religious ethic of fraternity’’ at this level. The absolute transcendency of the divine gift will be at the heart of the most powerful currents of Christianity. that will be as strong as the link provided by the ceremonial gift exchange. where the transition from a clan society to a political society occurs. the ethic of the gift exchange. it is above all the expression of generosity and compassion. of the divine favor. the polis. inseparable from punitive justice. we are dealing with the form of social relations in each case. absolutely free and which cannot be reciprocated. as De Beneficiis shows.. remains reciprocal. The structure of this alliance. makes it possible to understand the equally unique character of grace.    voice and if you keep the alliance with me. in short from a segmentary system founded on a tight network of reciprocal services to a system organized around a center—the meson of public space—we will also find a crisis in the system of the ceremonial gift exchange and ritual reciprocity. Providing a network of commitments is precisely what needs to be done. i. This gift can be reciprocal or not. Yet reciprocity itself is in crisis.. — finally there is the individual gift of the moral kind which depends on the free decision by the donor. And thus.  . as an act that is unconditional. we call this grace. This is the act which Aristotle made into a virtue and which Seneca recommended all should practice.e. for the whole earth is mine. At this point we can finally reconsider the question of the gift as such. just as the network of gift exchanges between private individuals manifests this grace. The answer lies in the double movement of the divine charis and the individual philia. we dealt with three types of gift relations: — first of all the ceremonial gift exchange which above all aims at recognizing the partner and constitutes the very social life of traditional societies. — then we encountered the unilateral gift from the sovereign or the city. Generally speaking.

legalistic Pharisees. . In short. As for the rest. purist Qumranians. ‘‘To the question of who must give. the requirement of unconditional charity offers a universal solution. when offerings become unconditional. in the refusal to limit or even stop the gift. it is important to stick to what is our vocation: everyday life in a profession.] In this sense of overabundant generosity. it testifies to the increasingly radical movement towards purity of intention. the gift that imitates the divine gift. only thus can another community become possible. and so the Protestant ethic finds itself in accord with the spirit of capitalism which prospers at the moment when the system of gift exchange is fading away. . And so the ‘‘religious ethic of fraternity’’ is set aside. after the crisis of the ceremonial gift linked to the emergence of the city.  Reciprocity can no longer be understood and is reduced to the search for one’s advantage. it is also because a more profound movement is () ‘‘Repères pour une histoire de la naissance de la grâce’’ in Revue du MAUSS (). However. By restricting the power of giving to God. Samaritans. the doctrine of predestination leaves it up to the world of work and business to manage social relations.. Only a totally gratuitous gift is truly a gift. Jesus’s preaching encounters just such a crisis. there is potlatch in the attitude of Jesus and his disciples’’ ().. Jesus answers: who? everyone. If the gift exchange relations and the personal bonds they imply have become burdensome. For Seneca. Without unconditional offerings social relations will fall apart.. p. the reciprocal gift no longer has any meaning. . Now the pure gift needs to be affirmed. The requirement of a limitless generosity is the most audacious response to a situation of virulent conflict between several political and religious tendencies: Pro-Roman followers of Herod. there comes the crisis of the moral gift linked to the dismantling of the city.  () Ibid. In this hopelessly blocked and shattered society. to whom. as is shown in a remarkable study by Camille Tarot (). Then at the same time and in a very different context. without the expectation of a payback. One could say it is the type of crisis that reoccurs with Luther’s dissidence and then Calvin’s. Essenes. no human gift can add to the divine gift which has to be received by faith. do ut des. to whom and what. Sadduceans. Henceforth. a new and unknown threshold is crossed here: God alone can give. to all and what? everything [. Each crisis reflects a different stage in the process as gift exchange relations become more and more interiorized.

This is Clavero’s work. everything is happening as if the thought of the Reformers. Neutral and rational. It is indeed in those settings that a form of rationality prevails at the level of daily life itself. His method. which hitherto had only concerned clerics. as if the rise of capitalism had been either resisted or applauded by one or the other. overtake relations of service. this supposedly was also because they retained closer links to peasant and artisan communities. Indeed. A good Hegelian would see here an extraordinary ruse of history. A good Weberian would find himself forced to elaborate on or even go beyond Weber’s analyses. mentioned above. documentation and hypotheses make his argument quite convincing. However. For instance. In short. Antropologia catolica de la economia moderna ().  . this wording still implies a retrospective approach. It so happens that the elements for such a study exist even if its goal is different. () Op. Antidora. Weber and E. the following question needs to be asked: what is happening in Catholic Europe at that same time? If indeed. or at least to complement them. is of major interest in that it presents the missing piece of the case opened by M. to validate Weber’s thesis. at a time when no one had named or recognized it as a global process. see note .    emerging. driven by theological necessity. Calvero makes crystal clear the relation between Catholic doctrine and an idea of the economy which resists the very emergence of capitalism. Clavero’s book. Catholics were able to preserve more human social relations with deeper roots in friendships. made it possible to devalue charitable relations when it became important to give free reign to contractual relations. only the latter allow for the type of exchange needed by capitalism. The two German sociologists enabled us to understand the profound link between Protestantism and emerging capitalism. obeyed the logic of a fundamental change taking place primarily in the urban settings of commercial Europe. in spite of the expansion of large commercial cities. even modest ones. mutual aid or gift exchanges. Troeltsch. Clavero In spite of its limits. as Weber sometimes mentions. One could say that the legitimate condemnation of the misuse of ‘‘good deeds’’. attention needs to be focused on the Catholic ethic and the spirit of non-capitalism. This is also the environment where commercial exchanges based on contracts. cit. The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Non Capitalism According to B.

identified with usury. For this command implies a whole way of thinking related to ideas of friendship and justice. Hachette. ). Most significantly however. or more generally in what anthropology has brought to light since Mauss wrote about relations based on the system of gift exchanges in traditional societies. this generalization is insufficient. By situating himself as much as possible at the level of the actors in the past. He even appears to exclude them in his methodological concern to rely solely on documents of the period in question.: La Bourse ou la vie (Paris. Clavero finds a name for it which recurs in theological treatises or manuals on morality during the Renaissance: antidora. it also weakens its scope since it remains silent on the entire philosophical (Aristotle and Seneca for instance) and theological (the Church Fathers and Medieval theologians) tradition concerning the condemnation of profit and the valorization of gratuitous generosity.  Catholics no more knew they were resisting capitalism than the Calvinists knew they were favoring it. Actually. Clavero shows that things were lived and understood in significantly different ways from what a retrospective perspective imagines. Calvero does not ask these questions. However. N. I would like to make a preliminary commentonClavero’sanalyses. Your Money or Your Life (New York. Such a choice unquestionably increases the credibility of his argument since it produces convincing results without outside recourse. of what is natural and what is artificial. the th and th centuries in Spain. That point is well established ().Inadvancingsuchahypothesis. a term from the Greek which literally means counter-gift. Le Goff. In short.theauthor could have been expected to make an attempt to find out more about generous reciprocity. Nelson. supposedly played in burdening banking and trade. of intention and formalism. the prohibition of usury is but the negative side of the essentially positive injunction of generous reciprocity. Le Goff. However. ). things are not that simple.  PUF. . as we will see. of family and state. How then can we account for the equally severe condemnation on that score in Luther’s preaching? Clearly. orig. For him this seems to guarantee avoiding the risk of imposing alien concepts on the past. With respect to the Catholic world. Zone Books. J. either in earlier Western thought. ) [Ed. The Idea of Usury (Princeton University Press. it is customary to mention only the central role that the condemnation of profit. Marchands et Banquiers du Moyen Age (Paris. )]. usury (this definition covers all profits) stands condemned because it contradicts the requirement of charity. it fails to situate this ‘‘Catholic anthropo() B. Before returning to these issues. of symmetrical equality and proportional equality. of the obligation to give in return.

p. social relations are understood to be defined by charity. because they arise from the order of things desired by God. and finally the preeminence of the order of grace with respect to everything that could be thought of as the ‘‘economy’’. This implies a whole range of important consequences when it comes to legal formulations. () Ibid. a Spanish theologian at the beginning of the th century (). and this is the point.. In the discourse of Catholic theologians. The main lines of Clavero’s argument focus on a number of issues that may be summarized as follows: the priority of generous and charitable relations over contractual and legal relations. Let us consider first of all generous relations. p.. cit. .. even if his argument shows how the rejection of profit was formulated. From this alone ensues the illicit character of usury. but as a token of gratitude.  . C. not for the lender’s profit. The surplus in the restitution is in turn a mark of generosity.    logy’’ in the general framework of a problematic of gift-giving found in every culture. Those three types of priorities can be found in theological treatises as well as in exchange practices. to help him and support him. the priority of the order of family and friends over public and administrative authorities. . Such relations are presented as the only ‘‘naturel’’ and spontaneous ones. Charity means benevolence. debates about the legitimacy of business dealings. There is community among men only because there exists between them the same type of relations God has established towards them. According to one author of that time: ‘‘There is no doubt that to accept a high rate of interest for money given is in itself unjust’’ (). Natural. Finally. ‘‘It is with the same charity that we honor God and our neighbors.’’ writes Victoria. the priority of proportional and distributive equality over strict commutative equality. () Cited in ibid. it does not say why the Catholic world tended to resist the emergence of economic practices which suited the Protestant ethic so well. However. it does not prevent the beneficiary from giving back more. they are also God’s relations towards man: pure generosity without calculation. Usury is identified with profit no matter what it is. To clarify this difference is going to be a most difficult theoretical task. op. La grâce du don. Victoria and so many other theologians of his time pose the problem in these surprising terms: he who provides a loan in reality makes some kind of a gift and he who () Cited in B. Clearly. Besides. to wish the other well. p. This refusal is nothing less than a divine command: ‘‘the Lord says: give each other loans without expecting anything in return’’ (). friendship. . By usury is to be understood every form of profit in loans.

This means that it remains in the range of personal relations. and one could consider that the prefix anti insists on the point of view of the beneficiary and his response. This is understandable in a universe haloed with divine grace. Clavero pretends not to know this as he only refers to Spanish treatises of the sixteenth century that use the Latin term antidorum or the feminine form antidora. Thus the major problem posed by Catholic doctrine is not only the devaluation of business for the sake of charitable relations. affirms a theologian. dependency. The requirement to be generous also has its antecedents in the ethic of gift-giving as formulated by Seneca. This is indeed the remarkable process of Catholic thought: translating the loan into a gift and the interest received as a counter-gift: antidora. theological thought that privileges the logic of charity and of gift-giving relations. in the logic of the ‘‘warm’’ social link. It is easy to surmise what the ‘‘modern’’ problem will be: to uncouple economic activity from the relations based on the exchange of gifts that remain personal. affects. What appears surprising is the precedence given to the notion of counter-gift rather than gift. exchange) used by Aristotle. As we see.  returns it with a surplus only gives back and honors the received gift. What prevails is the idea of an obligation that is not legal but moral or statutory. the reply to a gift which already preceded us. Hence the emergence of the concept of antidora. This may be so. One could have expected antidosis (gift in return. this moral theology of exchange requires the translation of any form of commercial exchange in terms of reciprocal gifts. ‘‘Obtaining something through friendship does not constitute usury’’ (). For anyone familiar with classical Greek vocabulary. Clavero does not seem to be quite familiar with the contemporary anthropological data on this issue. this terms seems strange. p. Of course. He only tells us that the term has been sanctioned by numerous texts. Those he cites seem to imply that giving is always also to give back. it is precisely to deal with such () Cited in ibid. ends up recoding profitable actions in terms of this logic. but even more the formulation of business as a variation of those generous relations. This is precisely the uncoupling that will be achieved by the Lutheran doctrine of profession-vocation (Beruf) and by the Calvinist thought of inner-worldly asceticism. fraught with ‘‘warm’’ sociality. but is understood or at least presented as an act of generous reciprocity. The economic transaction has certainly taken place. . and hypocritically call loaned money received gifts and returned gifts the money paid back with interest. All in all.  . The risk then is that agents of financial exchanges will play on words..

confirms. It does not expect feelings of gratitude from partners. It does not require good intentions directly. financial interests and temporal limits to commitments. remains compatible with the order of charity. nor the expression of benevolence. which is another way of saying that the exchange of goods has no other purpose than to maintain or reinforce social relations. cited in ibid. protects. . Thus it can guarantee that the merchant will be compensated for his efforts and his work. But these earnings have no charitable value. p. even if such sentiments may accompany or favor it. Intention operates the translation of the commercial relation into a gift-giving relation. i. It does not create social relations. These are of course Aristotelian categories. Thus it operates in a restrictive rather than positive mode. The contract is undoubtedly its most constant expression. Intention makes all the difference between the profitable and the selfless act. There are indeed two types of justice. However it would be excessive to reduce the idea of justice to this form alone. It strictly insures that due is given and punishes when commitments are not respected.. .. What is the goal of friendship? It is to make friends. The legal relation does not engage partners personally. one which is strictly contractual and egalitarian and is called commutative.. This is why the charitable order is radically different from the legal relation.    a risk of abuse that the question of intention is introduced: the generous relation must first be an inner disposition. otherwise the gift-giving relation could hide ‘‘mental usury’’ (). The latter is distributive or proportional justice. not nature. punishes. It insures that nobody is wronged. from the order of the Law ruled by the category of the contract: ‘‘The law of friendship (jus amicitiae) precedes and prevails over the Law itself’’ (). It distributes. limits. as Aristotle told us already. to pay back as if one were giving back liberally. concludes. That is why the contract is the clearest expression of the legal order. What is the latter’s domain? It is to attend to the formal equilibrium of relations. It does not per se create links between two individuals. () Domingo de Soto. constrains. prevents. a superior and more flexible type. The other type. It defines what is due according to convention.  . The power of intention then allows for the constant transfer of the commercial exchange into the order of charity: to loan as if one were giving.e. In business the latter fixes prices. () Ibid. no more. p. revived by Thomas Aquinas in the Middle Ages. It is restrictive. it imposes an absolute obligation— such as guaranteed profits—under the threat of sanctions. Such is not the purpose of the order of the Law.

this is in fact an economy (production and exchange) but without economic objectives. the Roman or Medieval familia. This is why the economy also wants to be ‘‘natural.. It is proportional in as far as it takes into account the status of agents. a dimension that has priority over justice. This is why it is appropriate for contracts which also deal with objects and tend to ignore the uniqueness of the contracting parties. sister. Even though Aristotle had established the primary and natural character of the family. C. I. Here an anthropological perspective needs to complement Clavero’s: the family in question is the kinship system. Besides. .  () Ibid. () B. parents and children. which constantly dominates this outlook. -. There existed a certain autonomy of the family that was superior to the civil. ‘‘The family prevailed and with it charity. in large sections of Catholic theology. but there are particular economies for each household (). Or rather. it only takes into account that which is exchanged. pp. bound together by reciprocal obligations of service and mutual aid.  Commutative justice presupposes or institutes formal equality between partners. On the other hand distributive justice is superior because it is more subtle and remains compatible with the order of charity. just as there existed a religion that determined this autonomy by capturing it’’ (). it ignores differences in status or resources. means first of all that society is nothing but the association of families. it is impossible to imagine an economy in the modern sense of the term in this universe of the antidora. or rather what at the time was called the parentele. cit. There is no general economy. Economic objectives () Polit. a-. Hence the ‘‘oïconomia’’. is different and superior (). lord and peasants. the vocabulary of the family presupposes its natural character when it names the relations within the Christian community: father. according to Clavero. This idea still persists in Scholastic thought. However. p. political or social order. he nevertheless considered that the order of the city which presupposes it. very literally that of the oikos. etc. such as the difference between husband and wife.. household business. master and servant. This ‘‘natural’’ order of things. First.’’ It is supposed to be just a family affair. Clavero needs to be reminded that this is true of all ancient economies and those of all traditional civilizations. op. In this particular theological conception this means that it fits well with the ‘‘natural’’ order of things. . the family takes over as the social authority. We can now begin to see some of the consequences of these concepts and practices. brother. This is not new but the erosion of the civil order reinforces its impact. mother. In that respect it is abstract and impersonal.

These are relations between protectors and protegees. judges were incapable of providing it’’ () [. .. in short a society where relations centered on the exchange of gifts and services imply the personal commitment of partners.] The banks could not count on a proper legal system’’ (). implying a more personal and active sociality than in the Protestant world. relatives or well placed friends. and to aristocratic values of lavish liberality. the concept of corruption indicates then the point at which they clash. obligations and deadlines. but also the idea of relations based on personal favors and almost clan-like solidarity ()... () This study needs to be supplemented by further research into the cultural roots of the two traditions in Western Christianity. the fact that the Protestant ethic corresponded to the world of business and  . From that point of view then Catholic culture is not specific but essentially faithful to the immemorial values of social relations based on the exchange of gifts. p. One thing appears remarkable: while the term grace in the Protestant context invariably evokes the doctrine of predestination. But what happened in the universe of the antidora? ‘‘Actually at work here were relations of grace. But to make a profit in order to increase one’s well being and prestige. This is not a marginal dimension but an entire world: on the one hand celestial protectors. . It would be interesting here to continue the analysis and try to understand in which way a form of classical corruption is nothing but the perverse crossing of the traditional logic of the gift exchange with that of modern business.] The legal system did not offer enough coverage. and on the other hand terrestrial protectors.    presuppose the rationality of investments aiming at profits in order to further increase the investments. The second consequence is that if the charitable relation is more important than the order of the Law. while the latter was acknowledged to be more modern and efficient However. in the Catholic context it implies first of all the idea of charity. What was there instead? Clavero answers: a society of patronage and clienteles.. There is general agreement that Catholic theology and sermons remained faithful to the concepts of charity and generous gift-giving. are confused and become incompatible. that is a traditional attitude. The case of the Orthodox tradition would also need to be reevaluated. Economic rationality cannot function without conventions that fix prices. that is saints with various competencies. One could say that it is precisely in this matter that the Protestant world will take the turn towards modernity by allowing the world of business to decree precise rules for commercial and financial transactions... () Ibid. () Ibid. Banking activities could leave no room for economic forecast nor for legal responsibility [. there will be insufficient legal formulation to regulate contractual exchanges. Comparing the results obtained by Weber and Troeltsch with Clavero’s findings makes the distance between them very clear. p.

. which remains close to the traditional forms of community and then appears as a lack of modernity. profession-vocation. as the interiorized version of the unilateral gift. solidarity and personal relations. the second model acknowledges the importance of status. First of all the Protestant doctrine of the absolute nature of grace is the affirmation of the intransitive nature of the divine gift to which no answer is possible. Weber clearly outlines the increase in rationality generated by this ethic. those would make it clear that the opposition between Protestantism and Catholicism originates less in doctrinal differences than in a sharp divergence between two models of structuring the social bond. It is not even desirable any longer to interiorize the gift. leads to the paradox of another reinforcement. We started out with Weber’s thesis on the convergence of the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. The first model is based on the interdependence of needs and the logic of profit. so central to the dispute between Protestants and Catholics. Why the resistance? Weber does not say. Hence predestination. such as for instance the fact that the Protestant Refor-  mation spread almost exclusively in the areas that were not subject to the tradition of Roman Law. i. Weber notes then that such a transformation does not occur in the Catholic world where an ‘‘ethic of fraternity’’ continues to prevail. that of the investment of human capacities in professional life. . as the transformation of the anthropological question of the gift exchange. This would mean an opposition between the individualism of the cities and the ancient solidarity of the countryside.  * * * Perhaps we should now measure the distance we have covered so far. something becomes doubly clear by considering the issue of grace. The traditional answer is to oppose the urban and progressive North to the agricultural and conservative South. how then to explain Luther’s success among the poorest peasants? Other parameters need to be taken into account. What also becomes clearer is the condition of societies where ‘‘the religious ethic of fraternity’’ prevails. the rigidity of which he recognizes at the same time. This would certainly be a major factor in creating the differences. which is certainly more livable but less favorable to the economic rationality and its dynamics embodied by capitalism. and that the Catholic ethic seemed to have resisted. which is the interiorized form of emerging capitalism. by reinforcing the notion of divine transcendence. Then what about Northern Italy where capitalism first emerged? What about the great commercial centers of France and Southern Germany that remained Catholic? Conversely. does not explain why the Reformation spread primarily in Northern Europe and why the Latin countries remained more faithful to Rome than the others. He clearly shows in what way the Protestant doctrine of predestination. They are relations of reciprocal dependency rather than of mutual attachment.e. This is the only way social relations will be established. Freed from an impossible response. Interestingly. the anthropological origins of which remain to be unearthed. the believer is called on to honor God by his work: Beruf. Other less obvious elements need to be brought out.

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