In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber describes how early religious values helped to cement capitalism as an economic system. He goes on to say that these capitalistic systems – which were rooted in religious ideas/values – have since lost their religious motivation.
“We provisionally use the expression spirit of (modern) capitalism to describe that attitude which seeks profit rationally and systematically in the manner which we have illustrated by the example of Benjamin Franklin (Weber p. 27).”
Ahh, ok. So Weber is pointing out that there is some overlap between the “spirit of capitalism” and some of the common Ben Franklin-isms that we all know.
Or so I thought we all knew.
I asked my class to write down their favorite Ben Franklin quotes as a simple little attendance check. I was expecting to be flooded with “A penny saved is a penny earned” and “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise”. Both of these are perfect examples of what Weber was referencing.
Instead I was met with blank stares.
Apparently the kids aren’t down with Papa Franklin these days. So I modified the assignment (after all it was just an attendance check), and I told them to write down something related to Ben Franklin or to what we had been talking about according to Weber.
Here are a handful of favorites that I received:
“Was he the guy w/ the key and the kite?”
“Benjamin Franklin: I know he didn’t say this but a phrase is – ‘It’s all about the Benjamins.'”
“The Ben Franklin Effect: It’s when you ask someone who doesn’t like you very much for a favor and if they do the favor for you it causes cognitive dissonance which results in that person liking you more to get rid of the dissonance that the favor created.” (I’m not sure either…)
“Do not trust everything you read on the internet.” (This person also put the penny saved phrase as a real quote.)
“My favorite Ben Franklin related invention is the $100 bill.”
“My favorite thing is he got shocked by lightning bolt when he put his kite in the air. ‘Ouch, that hurt.'”
Perhaps best put: “Ben Franklin was an inventor, a cool guy.”
To be fair, I did put them on the spot, and I do think that some of them did a pretty humorous and creative job when it came down to it. I will also note that the majority were able to come up with legitimate quotes or fun little facts that were relevant.
Bonus: From a previous class a year ago when writing about Benny from The Sandlot. Benjamin Franklin Rodgriguez: “I feel with Benny’s full name being mentioned and his last name being Rodriguez, this quote shows how America is built on a nation of immigrants and diversity. Benny embodies this through his name representing both an American president and of being of Spanish origin.” Oops.