On the question of the ambivalent nature of "Protestant ethics"

Weber's legacy: at the crossroads of traditions





liberalism, zemstvo, pan-moralism, narodnichestvo, narodnichestvo (Russian populism), Protestantism


The article emphasises that Max Weber’s works, counselled by Bohdan Kistiakivskyi and dedicated to the analyses of revolutionary events of 1905 in the Russian Empire, contain somewhat controversial conclusions. On the one hand, a prominent German thinker believed that Russian social-reformist liberal democracy has embarked on the path of self-renunciation by virtue of the fact that its only historical chance laid within the system of zemstvo and under the conditions of the implementation of a way more moderate agricultural programme than the one advocated by cadet liberalism. On the other hand, he substantiated a view that Russian society turned to the Western European model, renouncing patriarchal “agrarian communism” and narodnichestvo (Russian populism). The comparison between Weber’s and Kistiakivskyi’s standpoints is then made, as of thinkers who, together with Simmel and Sombart, considered social relations in terms of social rationalisation. The convergence of views of these theorists is demonstrated through a deliberately positive attitude to anti-centralism of Mykhailo Drahomanov, criticism of the democratic intelligentsia radicalisation, and condemnation of its pan-moralism (focus on the total struggle for “truth”; non-recognition of ethical neutrality in assessments; assumption that human consciousness is focalised around ethics). The difference is said to be particularly demonstrated by the fact that Bohdan Kistiakivskyi was much less concerned with the role of the Protestant-Reformation factor in the genesis of liberal ideology. The article instantiates that sectarian Protestant puritanism, especially the heterodoxy of Protestant ethics of the Reformation, can be characterised as a phenomenon with a fundamentally dual and ambivalent nature. The aforementioned phenomenon formed a dual causal connection with both the “spirit of capitalism” and the “spirit of agrarian communism” condemned by Weber. That is the worldview of the bourgeois-liberal social class as well as the socially disadvantaged groups of the peasantry. Some of Weber’s references to Müntzer (f.e., that peasant riots headed by Thomas Müntzer had a decisive influence on the evolution of Luther’s views) allow us to believe that Weber himself understood the full extent of the ideological ambiguity of the Protestant phenomenon.

Author Biography

Anton Finko

Candidate Sciences in Philosophy, Research Fellow at the Department of Social Philosophy, H.S. Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, 4, Triokhsviatytelska St., Kyiv, 01001


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How to Cite

Finko, A. (2021). On the question of the ambivalent nature of "Protestant ethics": Weber’s legacy: at the crossroads of traditions. Filosofska Dumka, (1), 116–134. https://doi.org/10.15407/fd2021.01.116






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