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Gateway to idea is. The. Gateway to ideas. A new series of conversations in which ideas are discussed in relation to reading. Today's program. The Protestant ethic today is moderated by Dr. Benjamin Nelson chairman of the Sociology Department of State University of New York at Stony Brook. Dr. Nelson is an author and editor of numerous books and essays in the fields of social science and cultural history. They are topic this afternoon is the Protestant Ethic in the 20th century Rosneft thick as a factor in the development and present life and likely future of the USA and the Protestant Ethic everywhere else across the globe.
It's hardly possible for a discussion of this sort to go on without speaking of backs they were the author of the Protestant Ethic and the spirit of capitalism. And I am delighted that we have to guess. I was eminently qualified as any in our country to talk to the varied themes which Max Faber introduced and I want to greet Professor James and Gustavsson professor of Christian ethics chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University's Professor Gustavsson is the author of treasure in earthen vessels the church as a human community published by Harper and Row and Thomas F. O de Fessor Sociology Department of Religion Columbia University that was taught at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City at Fordham University in New York City at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology in Cambridge. He is the author of two books The Mormons published by the University of Chicago Press and the American Catholic dilemma published in a by the new American Library. And she didn't watch it. And three of us. Well consider the story of the Protestant Ethic in its influence in the U.S. and elsewhere across the globe. When Labor died in 1920 there were few who sensed the great actuality and urgency of the problems he had so devotedly studies. There were perhaps we could say two revolutions that were yet to occur to be felt in their full force. The first I think we could call the revolution arising fulfillments which we are today experiencing in the United States in the name of the era of affluence. Not
altogether without its shadow side. That is the problem of poverty. And across the world we may speak of the revolution of rising expectations experienced principally in the so-called underdeveloped lands. It is to Baber that we must above all turn if we want to understand the complex cultural process sees involved in both of those developments. And I would first wish to look to our own country and ask whether in the opinion of professors Gustavsson and O'Day there has occurred a profound change in the place and role influence of the Protestant Ethic in the United States. If as Augustus and what would you say to that. Well it's quite clear to me that there are changes taking place and for a number of reasons if I were to typify they promise and I think.
I would say that perhaps it is an ethic that has a strong sense of duty rather rather than a strong sense of sort of joyous participation in the good things in life. But it is stressed a sense of sovereignty over oneself rather than a kind of immediacy of the pleasant and the good in the joyous and in the American scene the sheer affluence as you have suggested undercuts the economic support of an ethic of duty and ethic of discipline. I'd be interested Mr. O'Day reflections on this. Well I think that. There's a certain way in which America is a product of Protestantism and open land. I think we would put the two in a hypothesis of the open land available to be worked on with something a to say about the kind of people who came and
worked on it and these people are I think people who are buying lives and I'm speaking in the earlier period now before they 1840 immigration's of the non Protestant groups became a large immigration these people were people who carried with them ideas of duty and work and discipline and service of a kind which made them put forth Titanic energies in making America. Discipline work service duty these terms we've used and I use the term hero of yours Dr. Nelson impersonal service to an impersonal and these things I think are part of the outlook and make up of the people. Now the interesting thing about this kind of application of oneself this kind of mastery of oneself and then mastery of one situation through mastery of oneself is a course that brought about prosperity.
And we know the history of lots of families what happens in the third generation to lots of families who have made money the hard way kind of broaden Brock's dynamic getting into the picture here. And I think that's what's happening the Protestant ethic. I wonder if I could bring into the picture and to direct to your attention so that we could chat together about these the two books that are perhaps very well known one by David Reese one now at Harvard University the lonely crowd and the other by William H White Jr. of the organization man. Both books contend that the Protestant Ethic in its earliest form has undergone very profound modification in the United States. Recent speaks of the substitution of what he calls other directed mass for the Internet directed point of view and ethic of the early a phase of the Protestant
Reformation. And why. Speaking of the fact that in our organizations these days we don't really see the Protestant Ethic represented illustrated in the life of the individual we see rather complex attitudes or traits in place of the directedness we see a stress on togetherness with a certain amount of group conviviality. We see. A more than healthy respect for accepting the dictates of others rather than absolute obedience to the dictates of one's own conscience and self about which you Dr Justin was speaking. And we also see a point of view which is less concerned with older understanding at least to God in the religious we see what he calls scientism. I wonder whether we couldn't
talk a little about the views that have been expressed in both those writings. First recent perhaps and then say white. Well or certainly a good deal of evidence that Mr recent straight thesis has a kind of commonsense at least validity to it. I suppose the question could be raised about whether it is a sort of universal phenomenon or if there are other things taking place also be interesting to find out if for example in S. the country were conservative Protestant sects exist whether there isn't still some exemplification of this work duty obligation I think which still enables people to be socially mobile driving them upward more or less inner directed. Now maybe this phenomenon of Protestantism is going to. I wonder also if. Sustaining. Mr. Rhys
Moon's thesis is the is the sort of the third generation immigration phenomenon that is to say maybe the Protestant Ethic as we know it was sustained by the poverty of the immigrant who had to whether he were Protestant or not conform somewhat to this ethic to get along in this world. Mr. O'Day describe for us I am impressed with this kind of observational common sense of what Mr. Rhys Mansell had to say don't you think. Would you say this that we use we still use the term Protestant ethic because we're talking about a certain core phenomenon we're talking about and I'm going to use your term again Dr. Nelson and personal service to him personally and the thing about uprising I think did fail to emphasize was the fact that it became pretty completely secularized that once you got the system running then impersonal service in this impersonal bureaucratic system became a way in which you worked out your life the career replace the biography so to speak if we think
of the biography as the more natural kind of thing that involves what you call the joyous and the splendid pontine as so forth and so on. And what you had was a kind of control inhibition discipline over spontaneity canalization of one's energies and drives in certain directions. These were the directions of the system. Whether this is a business system or whether it's a governmental bureaucracy no matter what it is and this becomes fulfillment Della's fulfillment is a fulfillment through a soft denial in certain respects the canalization of Energy and others and is a quest was a powerful engine for for development. Veda himself as you well know was very ambivalent about this whole business and in the end the prosthetic refers to it as the eye in Cades it will probably go on until the last ounce of fossil fossilized whole home burns burnt you see and the only process already present now that you can place replace it with nuclear energy it can go on for a long time. But one thing that he can reckon with and that is that
as a result of working hard like this. And with this kind of devotion you brought about the revolution a rising fulfillment as you created what we call the affluent society and in the affluent society there's less sense of having discipline. There's less sense in working all the time. Yes there's more opportunity for enjoyment and virtues were necessities born out of poverty here and now you see they are necessities anymore and to begin to look less virtuous and I think people are casting about now there's a third book that I would rank but there's these two you mention that sloppy as a book on the Friday and yet that kind of attack on expression and expressiveness and wants to go back to an inhibition say and feels that Freud somehow would loosen this up although God knows for it was as big a Puritan as any of the rest of them. But what about David McClellan's book on the cheating society is another one that tries to go back in a way to his that sees achievement as a very high bridge for days. Yes perhaps it would be fun if I would read the passage I have to have it in
front of me to which you were referring before at the end of the Protestant ethic. Verba remarks the Puritans wanted to work in the calling. We forced to and he meant it. If you understood this that we are forced to. Precisely because they are the Puritans wanted to. It was the strength of the Protestant desire to manifest God's glory in this world which generated the rational organization of conduct and produced the modern economic order. Today you concluded that mechanized capitalism holds us and chained. We are born into a cage is the expression he uses from which there is no escaping. And he continues full when as said this is 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 today determine the logical individuals all born into this mechanism not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition with irresistible force. Perhaps it will so determine them until the last tonne of fossilized coal is burnt in Baxter's view. The care for external goods should only be 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. And then he continues and speculates as to whether it continued to be necessary throughout the history of modern society and particularly the United States of America which was of prime interest to him. Whether it was evident that religion would need to be the motive power to use your expression I saw today the engine where all this
and he suggests that perhaps it wasn't necessary this connects with our. Wonder about the whole question of the revolution of rising fulfillments and its corral to WPS in conduct and attitude and sentiment. He says in the field of its highest development in the United States the pursuit of wealth stripped of its religious and ethical meaning tends to become associated with purely Monday in passions which often actually give it a character of sport. You know there are those occasions in which something of the same discipline occurs without religious auspices no question. I think if we look around ourselves in the universities we'd see some of the finest manifestations of it by the people who deny religion as the engine so yes that is the sciences. I think it's been suggested in this conversation and Robert Merton did that wonderful essay a number of years ago in relation Puritanism the rise of science in the discipline and sciences one may have something of this phenomena. And one wonders also and some of the
upper echelons of business leadership which require the total discipline and total devotion if there is not still a a secularized engine keeping the same old steam going in the same kinds of activities. I like to comment on that and make the two observations one. They phenomena we call revolution of rising expectations is not altogether new in the history of Protestant lands and the Protestant ethic. It was repeatedly observed by the leaders of the religious communities and for that matter even John Wesley saw it happen and spoke of it as the inevitable declension of the religious communities. And we know that in the 18th century we have such observers as Bernard Mandeville who in his fable The Beast who arrives at the rather odd view that the ethic of discipline was actually not conducive to economic well-being that
waste was the mother of all invention and. Prosperity it isn't by accident altogether that Bernard Mandeville is mentioned as a sort of prophet by John Maynard Keynes whose economic principles are a cause of very great importance in connection with this notion of the revolution of rising fulfillment saw that in the first place we would have to note that although today we see the problem in vastly extended scope and intensity it is not altogether the first time that this is happening. And the second point to which you refer as Augustus and I think a terribly critical one at least as I see the matter. People talk about the Protestant Ethic have inclined to concentrate excessively on its application to the individual and his own organisation and so on and have failed to see its community and corporate and collective aspects. And my own sense is that
Protestant ethic. It is sort of a specter that has migrated from place to place across the US and we see it operative in the organizational structure of the United States of America. The FAA turning to the second book which we originally referred which was William H White's book the organizational man. I simply cannot agree with his stance that the organization is the rest of any sort of religious influence. On the contrary my sense is that the contemporary organization has much of the character of the church and that the communal ethic animates everybody who operates or in or he gets out. And certainly it's a kind of a surrogate for the church yes a functional alternative to the church and in many respects providing both the form and the mode of a yes for a highly disciplined life. It is a church though not a sect and that's I think raising a problem about it you see because it's a church in the true lazy ass tickle sense in that it is after all
basically underneath a personal hierarchy. And although one can behave and act meaningfully in terms of it one cannot relate very easily in terms of because one it changes and one's position in it changes all the time. And so there is built into it. The result really are put first in very big terms and then try to relate it back to this modern society is characterized by two things that seem contradictory at first yet they're both true. And one is it is a highly organized society. But on a certain other level it is almost formless as far as human relations are concerned. And so therefore I think all a lot of the anxieties with which white and race women are concerned come from this this is not the order organization so much as the formal side of it you see that the lack of of a relationship Bennett could I make two observations on your remarks. First I want to express. I hope for all of us a certain caution it appears that the three of us agreed that the
modern organization has so much the character of a church I think that many people listening to this would be quite astounded because they would be likely to think of the organization as a highly tooled mechanism whose sole aim and end is profit and who see it all together as rationally structured so that it generates powerful dividends over inputs. And we are suggesting that it really has the character of a church I think that opposition could be very well defended. I think I see the spirit of the church. An image in the life of all those who participate as members of the organization but I would like that point to be established pretty precisely now as to the question that you make a snow day about. High degree of formalization of parts of it and formlessness elsewhere. I think that this is one of the most central problems of all modern societies whether they are advanced or
underdeveloped or however and that is that sectors of the society undergo tremendous organization and rationalization at the expense of the integration of the integral which we know as a society. I think in fact in sociology we have taken note of this by speaking differently of what we call social systems which are the highly organized sub units of society and we then use the phrase society which is simply the mathematicians I guess would call an integral of all social systems and all relationships among social systems. Now economists know about that. You talked about gold right. And in fact the book the affluent society is in part an effort to alert the public to the fact that for all the affluence of the affluent society it itself remains very poor and under organized in its under organized sectors although highly organized within its organized sectors. I
think very much of what we today discuss under the heading of the. Quest for identity or the confusion of people has to do with the inability of people to discover a location meaning outside the organized sectors of the society. This is a dimension I would really like to at least call our attention to that. They are the kind of identity crisis or Also the quest for personal meaning which sort of brings up a whole new form of protest against I think both the old Protestant Ethic and some of the more highly institutionalized forms of it. Mutations are hostile. I liken all what Mr. O'Day makes of sort of existentialist protests in the light of the Protestant Ethic and modern society because we certainly have them around us and they are. Evidences which keep us from generalizing on a lot of things including other directedness.
Let me begin by saying this that you know there have been two ethics and I generalize a lot now and it's not very accurate but given it's kind of a general sketch there been to ethics coverage in the West in a way you see one is what I would call an otherworldly ethic which focused attention to another life beyond death which celebrated it during this waiting period. Certain signs or early apprehensions of that other life sacramentally and epic was built around that type of religious participation. The second type was the type that came up with Puritanism which is what they were really means by the Protestant Ethic came out with Pyrrhonism in which men did not develop a sacramental relationship to God but man became a kind of vessel or a sword or a weapon whatever it is in God's hands and acted out under the direction of God. And it was this that became the work ethic and which allowed this terrific pouring of energy in certain directions. Someone once I forget who it was put it sort of rather wittily by saying that although
I think much to the point that the Catholics on the Lutherans conducted a kind of love affair with Christ. While the Puritans went forward you say to to accomplish something here be low and overdrawn statement but I think a good deal and many respects you see at least in the tendency of the two kinds of ethics. No I think that what's happened is that this kind of both these kinds of behaviors have become have become becoming relatively meaningless now becoming reality meaningless in this new kind of situation a rising fulfillment you mention. And I think that is the challenge of personal meaning and identity and that's why you see the corporation cannot really be the church in a thorough sense. I wonder if in the minutes remaining We might perhaps say a few words about another revolution that we haven't talked about as yet. But one point two in the opening remarks and that is the revolution of rising expectations. Which appears to me at least to
involve the transfer or exploit of an ethic. I think the Protestant Ethic not necessarily under its own name but along with the dynamo and the bank and the boardroom in the Central Office and the computer. I see the prognathic actually spreading wherever we see Precious taught modernization new incentive to methodical labor romantic plot and systematic organization disciplined pursuit of gain and so on. Time doesn't really allow us today to talk about this in great detail but I would merely observe this fact. That the advanced countries of the world are be set perhaps by the problem of a revolution of rising that fulfillments they underdeveloped countries are in the throes of modernization and I think we will see new variants of the products and I think variants not at all untouched
by local religious attitudes I-and local organization with subsidies and so on. The great I think the word Great Leap Forward. But you know I mean just one thing here and as you know if you only had a small minority who had this work ethic in the in the developing countries it would be better to keep a consumption oriented ethic among the masses because with automation with cyber nation see it's not going to be necessary to make this thing depend anymore on a disciplined work ethic among the great majority. Well thank you very much first day. We are in apparent agreement that the Protestant Ethic is far from dead that it doesn't always manifest itself in the same way but it reappears under different guises. Sometimes as the life and discipline of the organization sometimes and patterns of expectation and new habits that are generated in the underdeveloped countries. But there is a very high probability that we shall see. A continuation of the influence of
the Protestant Ethic throughout the world. They forms which the prosthetic will take are exceedingly hard to predict and that is for the reasons that have been indicated by both my guess and that is the extraordinary versatility and variability in the faces and shapes as it were of the Protestant Ethic Protestantism doesn't move across the world as a set of fixed dog was with an established creed represented clearly in any set of instruments. It sets itself in a spirit set of attitudes and orientations which in the end find their way in the changes in the actual life and habits of men in the world. You've been listening to gateway to ideas a new series of conversations in which ideas are discussed in relation to reading today's program. The Protestant
ethic today has presented James go steps and professor of Christian ethics at Yale University and Thomas O'Day Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. The moderator was Dr. Benjamin Nelson chairman of the Department of Sociology at State University of New York at Stony Brook and one of five Americans invited last year to Heidelberg for the 1 100th anniversary of Max Weber's versus Dr. Nelson's first coming book is entitled next Baber and the 20th century. Then the dimensions of today's program for you a list of the books mentioned in the discussion as well as others relevant to the subject has been prepared. You can obtain a copy from your local library or by writing to gateway to ideas. Post Office Box 6 for 1 Time Square Station New York. Once again please enclose a stamp self-addressed envelope. Write a box 6 for 1 Time Square Station New York
Gateway to ideas
Protestant ethic today
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This program discusses the Protestant ethic in the twentieth century. The moderator is Dr. Benjamin Nelson of SUNY Stony Brook. Panelists are Professor James M. Gustafson, Yale University; and Professor Thomas F. O'Day, Columbia University.
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This discussion series, produced by the American Library Association, features noted authors, critics and scholars on various topics.
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: Meyer, Eva
Moderator: Nelson, Benjamin, 1911-1977
Panelist: Gustafson, James M.
Panelist: O'Day, Thomas F.
Producing Organization: WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
Producing Organization: American Library Association
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University of Maryland
Identifier: cpb-aacip-c85721b1fbb (Filename)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:33
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Chicago: “Gateway to ideas; Protestant ethic today,” 1965-05-11, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 2, 2021,
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APA: Gateway to ideas; Protestant ethic today. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from