“The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did its part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order. This order is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which to-day determine the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition, with irresistible force. Perhaps it will so determine them until the last ton of fossilized coal is burnt. In Baxter’s view the care for external goods should only lie on the shoulders of the “saint like a light cloak, which can be thrown aside at any moment”. But fate decreed that the cloak should become an iron cage. … For of the last stage of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: “Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.””

Weber, Max. 1930. Pp. 123-124 in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Routledge. [For Weber, the end result of formal rationality is the iron cage. These are just some of the concluding remarks by Weber in his magnum opus, one of the founding texts in sociology and usually the first introduced text in Sociology 101 classes. Even today, Protestant Ethic is considered one of the most important sociological works.]

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Max Weber
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