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Melvin Stephens

The Spirit of Capitalism, Economic Development, and National Wealth

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Download PDF versionDorius, Shawn F. 2012. "The Spirit of Capitalism, Economic Development, and National Wealth." PSC Research Report No. 12-771. August 2012.

In both original form and in popular discourse, Weber's classic Protestant Ethic thesis is grounded in the relationship between capitalist values and status attainment. Advocates and opponents of Weber's thesis have primarily focused on the religious underpinnings of the 'Protestant Ethic' at the expense of the ideological dimension Weber saw as the key motivational force behind the rise of contemporary industrial capitalism. By removing the religious dimension, Weber's thesis becomes a broadly generalizable 'mobility model' with potential appeal far beyond the narrow confines of Christian European history. Within a macro-comparative framework, we explore the relationship between capitalist values, capitalist behaviors, and economic development. We use fixed effects regression models to demonstrate a within-country association between values and economic development. We then use structural equation models to test the indirect effect of values on economic development via mediating variables in economic, demographic and social domains. Results suggest that capitalist values are an essential motivating factor in the global diffusion of industrialization and the accumulation of national wealth. Failure to account for the indirect effect of values on capitalist outcomes and to control for socio-economic advantage is likely to obscure the causal effect of values on industrial capitalism.

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