, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 1-27

The Spirit of Capitalism? Religious Doctrine, Values, and Economic Attitude Constructs

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Abstract

This article examines the relationship between conservative Protestant doctrine and economic policy attitudes. Building upon Weber's (1930) classic (and controversial) thesis that Calvinist thought inspired the “capitalist spirit,” we posit that the individualistic theology of fundamentalists, evangelicals, and charismatics often engenders political preferences for individualistic economic policies. We test this hypothesis by (1) performing a series of cross-sectional ordered probit analyses to understand the independent degree of association between doctrinal belief and economic attitudes toward taxing, spending, and the role of government, (2) creating and testing a structural equation model to assess various hypothesized paths of influence, and finally, (3) using 1994–96 NES panel data to assess the degree to which changes in an individual's doctrinal beliefs produce changes in his or her economic attitudes. Results lend substantial support to the efficacy of Weber's thesis, and point to religious belief as one exogenous agent of core political values.