Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Protestant Ethics Lives

I have been reading one of my favorite books, Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism with my Intro to Sociology students this week. They showed an interesting mix of two contradictory views in their own approach to work. On the one hand, they mouth fashionable cynicism that people only work for money. On the other hand, when I ask them about the people who shaped them -- their favorite teachers, the leaders in their community, their own parents -- they admit that those people work for a deeper reason. If they hit the lottery tomorrow, they wouldn't quit. Some work is, of course, a pretty bad job. But Centre College, and places like it, train people for work that they will find intrinsically rewarding.

As we tell them all the time, a liberal arts education is not to get you a job, but to make you into a better person. And one of the things that persons of good character do is work, work for the common good as well as to support their families, work for intrinsic reasons.

Bringing together these two contradictory views about work led to several "ah-ha" moments in class.

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