(noun) The doctrine that a highly spiritual state can be achieved by hard work, sobriety, and the renunciation of worldly pleasures.
Audio Pronunciation: (as·cet·i·cism)
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- Protestant asceticism was studied by Max Weber (1864–1920) in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905) and translated into English by Talcott Parsons (1902–1979) in 1930.
- Hedonism is contrasted to asceticism.
- Also called:
- An (noun) ascetic is a person dedicated to living an (adjective) ascetical life.
- “[T]he religious valuation of restless, continuous, systematic work in a worldly calling, as the highest means to asceticism, and at the same time the surest and most evident proof of rebirth and genuine faith, must have been the most powerful conceivable lever for the expansion of that attitude toward life which we have here called the spirit of capitalism” (Weber [1904–5] 1930:116).
- “The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did its part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order. This order is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which today determine the lives of all individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition, with irresistible force. Perhaps it will so determine them until the last ton of fossilized coal is burnt. In Baxter’s view the care for external goods should only lie on the shoulders of the ‘saint like a light cloak, which can be thrown aside at any moment’. But fate decreed that the cloak should become an iron cage” (Weber [1904–5] 1930:123).
- Word origin of “asceticism” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- Weber, Max. 1930. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
Weber, Max. [1904–5] 1930. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Translated by T. Parsons. London: Allen and Unwin.
Note: Page numbers are from a reprinted edition, Routledge Classics (2001).
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How to Cite the Definition of Asceticism
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “asceticism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved January 19, 2019 (http://sociologydictionary.org/asceticism/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
asceticism. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from http://sociologydictionary.org/asceticism/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “asceticism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed January 19, 2019. http://sociologydictionary.org/asceticism/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“asceticism.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 19 Jan. 2019. <http://sociologydictionary.org/asceticism/>.