A Weberian analysis of Afrikaner Calvinism and the spirit of capitalism

Begg, Mohammed Rashid (Stellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch, 2011-12)

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Max Weber’s text, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904-5), also called “the Weber thesis”, has animated debates on the relationship between religion, particularly Calvinism, and capitalism for over a century. Many studies have been done to test the validity of the relationship between religion, particularly Protestantism, and capitalism in different parts of the world. However, the case of the relationship between Calvinism and capitalism in South Africa has received limited scholarly attention. In the view of the political economist Francis Fukuyama, ‘the failure of the Calvinist Afrikaners to develop a thriving capitalist system until the last quarter of the [19th] century’ is an anomaly that needs explanation. My doctoral thesis takes up this challenge and offers an understanding of the engagement of Boers/Afrikaner Calvinists with trade, later modern industrial capitalism, from 1652 to 1948. In order to understand the South African case study — Calvinism found roots at the Cape in 1652 and is significant still today — I have employed historical sociology as my methodology. My preference was guided by Weber’s use of a form of this methodology. This allows for nuanced understandings of Calvinism and forms of capitalism at different periods in its evolution. I have employed Weberian sociological theory, including his ideal type constructs such as the Protestant ethic, bureaucracy and the spirit of capitalism, to gain greater insight. In my analysis I have also relied on Weber’s Verstehen (interpretive) frameworks to offer more nuanced results. To add to the conceptual framework, I have used Weber’s metaphor of the “switchmen” in order to trace the impact of ideas. Of course, the focus is on Calvin’s ideas as they were reintroduced at different periods in South African Calvinist history: often to suit new socio-political conditions and material interests. I trace the values of the Protestant ethic and the attitudes expressing the spirit of capitalism, following Weber, through an investigation of bureaucratisation of business and government. I show the increased convergence of the Afrikaner Calvinist volk with the spirit of modern industrial capitalism in the early 20th century through the call by the elite among the Afrikaners acting as ideological “switchmen” through their ideas and wanting to alleviate poverty amongst the group. Finally, the thesis shows the validity of the Weber thesis and its use for the study of Afrikaner Calvinism, including in period that follows after 1948.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Max Weber se teks, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904-5), ook genoem “die Weber tesis”, het debatte oor die verhouding tussen religie, veral Calvinisme, en kapitalisme vir meer as ‘n eeu geanimeer. Daar is vele studies wat poog om die geldigheid van ‘n verband tussen religie, veral Protestantisme en kapitalisme in ander dele van die wêreld te beoordeel. Die verhouding tussen Calvinisme en kapitalisme in Suid Afrika het egter beperkte akademiese ondersoek gekry. Na die siening van die politieke ekonoom Francis Fukuyama is “die onvermoë van die Calvinistiese Afrikaners om ‘n welvarende kapitalistiese stelsel te ontwikkel tot voor die laaste kwart van die [19de] eeu” ‘n anomalie wat verduideliking benodig. My doktorale tesis neem die uitdaging aan en bied insig in die verband tussen Afrikaner Calvinisme en handel, later, moderne industriële kapitalisme, van 1652 tot 1948. Historiese sosiologie, gelei deur ‘n Weberiaanse benadering, is as metodologie toegepas om insig te kry in die Suid-Afrikaanse gevallestudie – Calvinisme vestig in die Kaap in 1652 en is tans nog betekenisvol. Dit het my in staat gestel om ‘n genuanseerde begrip van Calvinisme en die vorms van kapitalisme in verskillende tydperke in sy evolusie te ontwikkel. Weberiaanse sosiale teorie, insluitend sy ideale tipes konsepte, soos die Protestante etiek, burokrasie en die gees van kapitalisme is toegepas om beter insig te kry. In my analise het ek op Weber se Verstehen (interpretatiewe) raamwerke gesteun om meer genuanseerde resultate op te lewer. Weber se metafoor van die “switchmen” is aangewend om die nalatenskap van idees te volg. Die fokus is natuurlik veral op die wyse waarop Calvyn se idees herhaaldelik gebruik is gedurende verskillende tydperke in Suid-Afrikaanse Calvinistiese geskiedenis: soms om nuwe sosio-politieke kondisies en materiële belange te bevredig. Ek het die waardes van die Protestante etiek en houdings wat, volgens Weber, die gees van kapitalisme uitdruk, in die burokratisering van besigheid en regering ondersoek. Ek het toenemende konvergensie tussen die Afrikaner Calvinistiese volk en die gees van moderne industriële kapitalisme in die vroeë 20e eeu, gevoed deur die oproep van die elite onder die Afrikaners wat waarneem as ideologiese “switchmen” deur hulle idees in die poging om armoede onder die groep te verlig, uitgelig. Laastens, die tesis bewys die geldigheid van die Weber tesis en sy toepassing in die studie van Afrikaner Calvinisme, insluitend die tydperk wat volg na 1948.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/17805
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