The idea was that the world will die by over-production.
Plenteous, strong, organized labour which produces goods for external markets is the key to economic growth. A friend of mine said that the Chinese ‘live to work’, and that that, in a nutshell, was the secret to its success. What would Weber say?
The religious part of work is to do with the sabbath. Say there is little concept of the sabbath in China (or India). What does this mean for work? For ‘living-to-work’? One could imagine that with no concept of sabbath (or work as punishment for sin) China is more susceptible to over-producing tendencies, having 14% more time for work. But on the other hand, having no break in time might render the whole ‘work-to-live/live-to-work’ dichotomy meaningless (not to mention Christian and socialist kingdoms of heaven). One lives, one works. The lack of a sabbath might take actually some intensity out of work, demanding a more measured working pace, a more measured production.
Why might western work be about ‘intensity’? The sabbath makes time for something meaningful beyond work as struggle, survival, life: this ‘something meaningful’ involves judgment. Could this not induce a certain anxiety about one’s value? How hard have you worked this week? What value have you created? Has your work honoured G-d?
In any case, mix the above-hypothesized work ethics – the anxious, intense over-production of the Godless-godly with the sabbathless work-is-life endurance of the East – and you get something… tiring.