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Religion and Economics in Robinson Crusoe and Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Religion and Economics in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

One of the most recognized and influential theories in sociology appears in Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which links the development of capitalism to social and cultural factors, primarily religion, instead of economic factors alone. In his theory Weber concludes that the Protestant Ethic greatly influenced the development of capitalism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. According to Gordon Marshall, Weber argues that the two most important factors of Protestantism contributing to capitalism were “diligence in worldly callings or vocations” and the notion of predestination (71). If indeed these religious factors did influence the rise of capitalism, it would make perfect sense that other cultural elements, such as literature, would reflect both Protestant and capitalist ideology. This essay shows that in fact such Protestant notions as calling and predestination, which were present in the religion of the time, interact with capitalist ideas in Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, who was himself a devout Protestant that used his writings to influence both the religious and economic views of his readers (Earle 31). If Weber’s argument is tenable, then Robinson Crusoe may serve to represent in fiction the Protestant Ethic in early eighteenth century society and its developing spirit of capitalism. An especially interesting question that arises from this analysis is how a social structure that is traditionally considered a-moral, unfair, and materialistic (i.e., economics) can be justified by a structure that is considered moral, just, and spiritual (i.e., rel…

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…ork: Scribner’s, 1954.

Earle, Peter. The World of Defoe. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976.

Forell, George W. The Protestant Faith. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1960.

Marshall, Gordon. In Search of the Spirit of Capitalism: An Essay on Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic Thesis. New York: Columbia UP, 1982.

Pauck, Wilhelm. The Heritage of Reformation. New York: Oxford UP, 1950.

Reshef, Yonatan. “Max Weber: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” n. pag. Online. Internet. 5 October 1999. Available:

Tawney, R. H. Religion and the Rise of Capitalism: A Historical Study. London: Hazell, Watson, and Viney, 1926.

Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Online. 10 October 1999. Available:

Iago, Master of Cruelty in Shakespeare’s Othello

Iago, Master of Cruelty in Othello

Iago stands supreme among Shakespeare’s evil characters because of his intense and subtle cruelty, perfectly combined with his exceptional powers of will and intellect. As a result of this, his motivations are unclear; however the innocent, loyal, and honest character Iago portrays to the others, does not reflect his true character. He is the ultimate puppet master. Every action is preplanned and manipulated for his audience to perceive him as this trustworthy decent man. Iago possesses such intelligence and acting ability that he forces others to act on and believe what he tells them. The other characters see him as what he wants them to see, and not for what he really is.

The three main emotional weapons Iago uses to destroy everyone are reputation, desire and jealousy. A good reputation is the most important virtue to the characters of this play. Their good name is what keeps them in high standing in society. What family one comes from and how one uses that status permeates every facet of life. Iago uses this as a weakness. He does everything in his power to destroy the reputation of others by creating illusions and lies and sharing them with those whom would listen. Iago was so trusted by all, that people would continuously look to him for advise and he would use these opportunities to manipulate their opinions and thoughts towards others. The importance of reputation and its usefulness is shown when Iago says, “Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, is the immediate jewel of their souls.”(Othello. Act III. iii. 182-183.)

One way Iago uses others importance of reputation to destroy them is in the case of Cassio. Early on in the story, Othello, who is a Moorish general in the Venetian army has an opening for a second in command. Although Iago wants this position desperately, Cassio is chosen. When the opportunity arises for Iago to avenge this, he does. Iago convinces Cassio , known as a responsible, loyal and trustworthy man to abandon his night watch and go out drinking. He eventually gets into a fight with another lieutenant and is discovered by Othello. When asked to explain the situation, Iago lies and tells Othello that Cassio behaves like this all of the time.

Using jealousy as a weapon is what prompts Iago to plot the ultimate downfall of the characters in Othello and especially Othello himself.

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