The Protestant work ethic, the Calvinist work ethic or the Puritan work ethic[a] is a concept in theology, sociology, economics and history which emphasizes that hard work, discipline and frugality are a result of a person's subscription to the values espoused by the Protestant faith, particularly Calvinism.
This contrasts with the focus upon religious attendance, confession, and ceremonial sacrament in the Roman Catholic tradition. A person does not need to be a religious Calvinist in order to follow the Protestant work ethic, as it is a part of certain cultures impacted by the Protestant Reformation.[b]
The concept is often credited with helping to define the societies of Northern, Central and Western Europe such as in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Switzerland. Even though some of these countries were more affected by Lutheranism or Anglicanism than Calvinism, local Protestants nevertheless were influenced by these ideas to a varying degree. As penal law was enacted to uphold the uniform teachings of the Church of England in England, only various English dissenters[c] held to those values. Among them were the Puritans who emigrated to New England, bringing the work ethic with them and helping define the culture of what would become the United States of America. Germanic immigrants brought their work ethic to the United States of America, Canada, South Africa and other European colonies.
The phrase was initially coined in 1904–1905[d] by Max Weber in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
A number of leading contemporary historians, including historian Fernand Braudel (d. 1985) and British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper (d. 2003), assert that the existing consensus among scholars is that Protestant Work Ethic theory is false. They refer to the pre-Reformation existence of rapid economic development of Catholic capitalist communities.