Max Weber’s Religion of China: A Re-Assessment

Krishan Kumar, University of Virginia

While Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism has received extensive discussion, it is only recently that attention has turned to his later work, The Religion of China, even though for Weber the two studies were intrinsically linked. This paper seeks to put the two in dialogue with each other, but the weight of the account is on Weber’s analysis of Chinese culture and society, and especially his argument that it was the ethic of Confucianism that was principally responsible for China’s failure to develop an indigenous capitalism, despite a promising start. How well does Weber’s account stand up to recent work on the subject by Chinese and Western scholars? The paper argues that whatever criticisms scholars may have of The Religion of China, it remains an inspiring work for approaching the study of non-Western cultures and civilizations.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 230. The Ideology and Governance of the Late Chinese Empire