The revival of Hinduism among middle-class Indians, or the emergence of the Falun Gong movement in China, or the resurgence of Eastern Orthodoxy in Russia and other former Communist lands, or the continuing vibrancy of religion in America, suggests that secularization and rationalism are hardly the inevitable handmaidens of modernization.One might even take a broader view of what constitutes religion and charismatic authority.
It is safe to say that most contemporary economists do not take Weber's hypothesis, or any other culturalist theory of economic growth, seriously.
Many maintain that culture is a residual category in which lazy social scientists take refuge when they can't develop a more rigorous theory.
Europeans may continue to use terms like "human rights" and "human dignity," which are rooted in the Christian values of their civilization, but few of them could give a coherent account of why they continue to believe in such things.
The ghost of dead religious beliefs haunts Europe much more than it does America.
This is something to bear in mind when one hears assertions that the religion of Islam explains terrorism, the lack of democracy or other phenomena in the Middle East.
At the same time, no one can deny the importance of religion and culture in determining why institutions work better in some countries than in others.
The violent century that followed publication of his book did not lack for charismatic authority, and the century to come threatens yet more of the same.
One must wonder whether it was not Weber's nostalgia for spiritual authenticity -- what one might term his Nietzscheanism -- that was misplaced, and whether living in the iron cage of modern rationalism is such a terrible thing after all.
Even today, among the highly secular societies that make up the European Union, there is a clear gradient in attitudes toward political corruption from the Protestant north to the Mediterranean south.
It was the entry of the squeaky-clean Scandinavians into the union that ultimately forced the resignation of its entire executive leadership in 1999 over a minor corruption scandal involving a former French prime minister."The Protestant Ethic" raises much more profound questions about the role of religion in modern life than most discussions suggest.