Does the Protestant Work Ethic Exist?
Religion & Liberty Online

Does the Protestant Work Ethic Exist?

Over 100 years ago sociologist Max Weber coined the term “Protestant work ethic” to describe how in some Puritan-based Protestant traditions hard work and frugality are a constant display of a person’s salvation in the Christian faith, in contrast to the focus upon religious attendance, confession, and ceremonial sacrament in the Catholic tradition. Many people (including me) think Weber’s thesis is fundamentally flawed. Nevertheless, Protestants do seem to have a peculiar and unique relationship with work.

As researchers at the University of Groningen found, Protestants seem to be particularly susceptible to the emotional strain of being unemployed.

The psychic harm from unemployment is about 40% worse for Protestants than for the general population, say André van Hoorn and Robbert Maseland of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Moreover, people living in Protestant societies are hurt more by being unemployed than people living in other societies, according to an analysis of subjective well-being data on nearly 150,000 people in 82 societies. An analysis of the data shows that the effects derive from an intrinsic appreciation of work among Protestants and in Protestant societies, the researchers say.

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Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).