Max Weber famously claimed, in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, that many capitalist values and practices in early modernity were shaped by a new Protestant ethos and culture. Two central ideas he examined were those of election, seen especially in Calvinism, and calling (Beruf), as explored by Luther, among many others.
In Calvinism, teaching about predestination of an elect group for salvation, coupled with the inscrutability of the sovereign God's will and plan, fueled a kind of spiritual anxiety. No one could be sure of one's elect status. Signs and markers in the world had to be sought, to give hints at God's possible blessing and hence confirming, ideally, one's status among the chosen. A central such sign, Weber surmises, was business success.
What Lutheranism contributed was a secularization of the idea of calling or vocation. Originally a notion of discipleship, following Christ in a specialized religious calling (most notably monks), the idea was extended, per Luther, to all one's worldly activity. Suddenly mundane or earthly tasks were to be infused with the same spiritual vigor and significance as religious endeavors. God's calling was a call to the world. One could follow Christ in one's daily work.
We can imagine how the two impulses could combine in a potent synthesis. On one hand, one sets one's mind to toil hard and gain success in work, in order to "prove" God's election. On the other, one can take comfort that toiling and working in this way is fulfilling one's divine purpose on earth.
Debates rage about whether Weber was on to something or chasing phantoms. Debate also continues about whether we can see this extending to our contemporary moment. This raises questions about secularization and what it means to see these initially religious impulses carried forward in a new guise.
What might it mean that the Protestant ethic is alive and well today, but in a non-religious (or differently religious) way?
One possibility is our culture of busyness and the prestige and status that come from the idea of toiling hard and being successful in business. One need only flip open any issue of Forbes to quickly realize that our society celebrates business success. We're also familiar with the sense of significance we get in proclaiming how busy we are, how hard we're working all the time. Might there be some residue of the Protestant ethic here, such that the new elect status is found in those who are toiling hard and finding success at work, just without concern for the afterlife?
We see this theme in popular culture. It comes up, I suggest, in the hit song "Tuesday" by ILoveMakonnen (feat. Drake). Listen to them: