God’s Favor

In many cases, material success and material wealth are considered by the broader culture and broader society as a mark of “God’s favor” upon a person. Such was the theme and leitmotif of Max Weber’s famous book titled “The Protestant Ethic and the ‘Spirit’ of Capitalism.” And the basic belief and idea is that what brings God’s favor upon a person and thus the material success and material wealth that comes along with God’s favor is nothing other than one’s beliefs and ideas in life. In other words, correct and valid beliefs and correct and valid ideas bring God’s favor upon a person along with the material success and material wealth that comes with God’s favor, and on the other hand, incorrect and flawed beliefs and incorrect and flawed ideas drive away God’s favor and thus drive away material success and material wealth.

And with the correct beliefs and ideas that drive success and wealth comes the energy and ‘spirit’ behind success and wealth. Weber wrote: “The question of the motive forces behind the development of capitalism is not primarily a question of the origin of the money reserves to be used, but a question of the development of the capitalist spirit. Wherever it emerges and is able to make its influence felt, it creates the money as the means of achieving its effects, although the reverse is not true.” 

Weber added: 

“However, its entry on to the scene is not normally a peaceful one. Suspicion, occasionally hatred, most of all moral indignation, can threaten to overwhelm the pioneer. Often – several cases are known to me – myths begin to circulate regarding his supposedly murky past. Few people are sufficiently clear-sighted to be aware of the unusual strength of character that is required from this ‘new type’ of entrepreneur if he is not to lose his sober self-control and face moral and economic shipwreck.”

And with the energy and spirit derived from correct and valid beliefs and ideas and thus the capitalist drive and motivation which in turn stems from the collection or combination of energy, spirit, beliefs, and ideas come great responsibility and pressure. Hence, great responsibility and great pressure go together and place themselves upon the shoulders of the entrepreneur along with the jealously and mudslinging from the outside and from bystanders and onlookers. Weber wrote:

“As well as energy and clarity of vision, he [the entrepreneur] will need certain outstanding “ethical” qualities to win the absolutely indispensable confidence of the clients and of the workers when introducing these innovations and to maintain the vigor necessary to overcome the innumerable obstacles he will meet. It is these qualities above all which have made possible the infinitely more intensive work rate that is now demanded of the entrepreneur. There is no longer any place for the comfortable lifestyle. These ethical qualities are quite different in kind from those that were adequate for the traditionalism of the past.” 

In turn, an important debate – namely, the Weber-Durkheim debate – has long centered around the question of whether beliefs and ideas determine a person’s position and status in international society, or whether it is the ‘division of labor’ which determines a person’s position in international society. It is worth noting that Adam Smith was a proponent of the ‘division of labor’ side of the debate. Both sides of the debate make valid arguments, but from an even more modern game theory perspective, the prevailing notion is that beliefs and ideas determine one’s position in international society, and as a result, one’s focus has to be on the correctness, quality, and validity of one’s beliefs and ideas in order to set the course and the stage for “success” as it pertains to a range of different aspects and dimensions of life. 

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