The Hacker Ethic: is it really new?

Does the “Hacker Ethic” really challenge something like what Max Weber describes in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism? At some level I think that the Protestant Ethic (as Weber describes it among the Puritans) was about devoting oneself to a calling, as morally good in and of itself, and damn the consequences. In a sense the means justify the ends, or more accurately: take care of the means and the ends will take care of themselves.

I don't think the hacker ethic is fundamentally incompatible with this. Just as the Puritan works hard because it is his calling, and the money and its corrupting influences are a side effect he must accept, the true hacker hacks/programs because that is his true calling and the money is a side effect.

Basically hacking is fundamentally too hard to be done for money (at least just for the money). If you can't see it as a worthy cause or something interesting enough to devote your life to, you won't be able to master it. If you can get home and turn it off, that's often not good enough.

This is in some way similar to the realisation from Weber's book. The Catholic who works for money, stops working when he has enough money to live on. The Protestant who works to save his soul, stops working when he is in his grave.

The hacker is different in that he doesn't fear damnation but more often than not simply enjoys the ride. But the requirement is the same: one needs to be motivated to work for more than money, to work more than is necessary simply to survive.

The end result is the same. Labour is an end unto itself. The nominal beliefs (i.e. overt expression in words) are unimportant, the observable results of the beliefs are what matters. And in practice the Protestant Work Ethic's duty to work at a calling, and the Hacker Work Ethic's passion for programming as the truest of all vocations, look very much alike.

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