Magic and Reformation Calvinism in Max Weber’s sociology

Jack Barbalet*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Weber’s claim that Calvinism eliminated magic from the world, inserted into The Protestant Ethic in 1920 and arising out of research reported in The Sociology of Religion, entails a sociological but also a theological proposition identified in this article. Weber’s conceptualization of magic permits his examination of the economic ethics of the world religions. Non-European cases, including China, are examined by Weber to confirm his Protestant Ethic argument regarding modern capitalism. He holds that Confucian rationality, associated with bureaucratic order, is compromised by its tolerance of magic. Weber contrasts this with the Calvinist rejection of magic. Weber’s claims regarding Calvinist demagicalization are made without regard to the Reformation Calvinist obsession with satanic witchcraft, in which the efficacy of magic is accepted as real. The distance between Calvinism and Confucianism, essential to Weber’s argument, is thus narrowed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)470-487
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Theory
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Calvinism
  • Confucianism
  • magic
  • religion
  • Weber


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