I’ve been thinking that Weber’s theory of motivation (‘the spirit of Capitalism’) is somehow the inverse of Marx’s theory of motivation as per the nature and experience of alienation under a capitalist system.
I think Marx would say that the worker is forever driven or destined to pursue the product of their labour from which they have been alienated or estranged. This is in large part because we are not only alienated from other workers, from the process and product of our labour, and from anything and everything we might want to be doing were we not compelled to labour so as ‘a means to satisfy needs or desires external to it’ – but we are alienated or estranged from the very horizons of possibility – of imagining what life could otherwise entail.
In contrast, Weber would argue that the product of labour (and the accumulation of wealth) is neither cause nor motivation for what he called ‘the spirit of capitalism.’ I think Weber would say that they are aspects or outcomes of an ascetic life, the motivation or drive of which is born of the need to demonstrate (to oneself and others) that one is among God’s elect and thus destined for salvation.
‘Not leisure and enjoyment, but only activity serves to increase the glory of God, according to the definite manifestations of His will’, Weber writes.
Idleness and excess are a waste of resources that could nay should be used for the sole purpose and pursuit of serving and thus glorifying God. But why accumulation and not distribution? Well, because you wouldn’t want to fuel the fire of the damned – laziness is sinful, leisure is ungodly and the damned are damned in any case – the doctrine of unconditional election holds that they cannot be saved. These days I think the ghost of Weber would reason that these associative values have become broader cultural understandings imbued with motivational and directive force – the whole notion of the American Dream is an overdetermined exemplar of this, I’d say.
Anyhow, so it seems for Marx – we’re motivated by a lack or loss – affected by the experience of estranged or alienation in socio-economic relations. It seems for Weber, in contrast, the experience of estrangement or alienation in socio-economic relations is not cause but effect – we are motivated by an anxiety that cannot be assuaged by any earthly relations or changes therein – and it is this anxiety (or the way we attempt to deal with it) that gave rise to the work ethic now associated with the spirit of capitalism, which, in turn, came to entail or gave rise to the experience of ‘earthly’ estrangement and alienation that Mr. Marx began with.
Goodness. I have no good reason to be wasting time thinking about this but it is a curious train of thought.