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German sociologist and economist Max Weber (1864-1920) published his most famous work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, in 1904-1905. Weber's writings and theories helped establish the foundations of modern sociology. Some of his other famous works include "Objectivity" In Social Science, Science as a Vocation, Politics as a Vocation, and The Theory of Social and Economic Cooperation. His account of bureaucracy as an essential feature of modern society has been highly influential. Weber was influenced by Karl Marx's writings, although he was not a Marxist, and actually criticizes aspects of Marxist theory in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism argues that the "spirit" that defines capitalist institutions has its roots in the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation was a sixteenth-century religious movement that led to the creation of Protestantism, beginning with the protests of Martin Luther against the Catholic Church in 1517. Luther argued that people could be saved through faith alone, and this doctrine is one of the basic tenets of Lutheranism. Another Protestant religion that figures prominently in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is Calvinism. Rooted in the ideas of John Calvin, Calvinism was based on the doctrine of predestination--that individual salvation was preordained by God. Calvinism is an ancestor of modern-day Presbyterianism.

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