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Capitalism and the Spirit of Critique: Activism and Professional Fate in a Contemporary Social Movement/NGO

Pier-Paolo Pasqualoni and Alan Scott
Max Weber Studies
Vol. 5.2/6.1, Max Weber and the Spirit of Modern Capitalism – 100 Years On (JULY 2005 / JANUARY 2006), pp. 147-169
Published by: Max Weber Studies
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24581978
Page Count: 23
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Capitalism and the Spirit of Critique: Activism and Professional Fate in a Contemporary Social Movement/NGO
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Abstract

Luc Boltanski's and Ève Chiapello's recent work on the 'new' spirit of capitalism has attracted considerable attention. This article seeks to (1) examine contemporary social movement organization (SMO)/NGO activity in the light of their analysis; (2) ask whether this 'spirit' is a return to the original and 'authentic' 'economic cosmos' that Weber described in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Attac is taken as the indicative case, and our analysis is based upon research into one of its national groupings, namely Attac-Austria. The paper focuses upon the relationship of professional fate (Berufsschicksal) and extra-professional activity, in this case political activism; a focus which has to be complemented by the conceptual tools of Weber's analyses of individual professions. The latter supplements the abstraction of 'spirit' by relating it to the ineluctable tension between exceptional and ordinary professional action. How, in this context, is political activity shaped by the actual or anticipated project-based professional activities of the current cohort of the politically active?

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