Karl Marx characterized and presented capitalism to us through alienation, wherein anyone who sells his/her labor power in exchange for money or wage to someone who owns the forces of labor. And this “alienation” as he described, is the estrangement from one’s self where one has no will power and is rather forced to labor and does not find any sense of fulfillment from his work. Max Weber, however presents capitalism to us through a different perspective, and to a more constructive rationalization of labor and making profit. Unlike Marx, he pointed out the positive values and fulfilling effects of capitalism to a laborer.
For Weber, this whole goal of capitalism, which is to make profit, could be turned around and seen to be as something not oppressive but rather beneficial to others and self-fulfilling for the laborers at the same time. This he presented as the religious asceticism. In our fast-paced-profit-seeking-greedy-society nowadays, these are very important theory/concept contrasts for us to think about that would help us gain a less stressful and more bearable working life ahead. In Weber’s perspective, profit is treated as a “creative enterprise.” Wherein, one takes labor as his/her calling and uses profit as an avenue for the expansion of life. When the spirit of capitalism seeks to accumulate profit for self gain, for the benefit of one’s own enjoyment, the religious asceticism, seek to accumulate profit for “serving the glory of God.” It is more of how to give back the blessings that is known to be only entrusted to him. When the spirit of capitalism has the mindset of the “survival of the fittest,” religious asceticism had the mindset of helping those that are more needy. Labor then is more of an avenue for spiritual discipline and earning profit is a means with a providential purpose. And when the spirit of capitalism becomes a constant struggle for economic survival and laborers find themselves being alienated, unhappy and unfulfilled, religious asceticism gains self-fulfillment and purpose.
So with all these contrasts being said, is capitalism ever good?
I would yes. in reality, not all owners or Bourgeoisies makes profit solely for their own benefit. Some purposely generates profit for a worthy cause. Not all laborers feel alienated in the work. There are still people who values work as if it is their life or their own personal spiritual discipline. Labor, oftentimes makes us restless and takes so much of our time. But just like happiness, labor is but a matter of perspective. We can either see it as rather unbearable or oppressive or we can see it as a means to reach our goals.