«Inaugural-Dissertation zur Erlangung des Doktorgrades des Fachbereichs Wirtschaftswissenschaften der Johann-Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am ...»
Among the reasons given for China‘s ‗failing‘ to introduce Capitalism in the 19th century were: geography, overpopulation, legal and political system, ideology and foreign imperialism. Huang argues that the reasons lie within China, whereas Pomeranz argues for the exceptional position of Europe compared to all other reHe tries to show why anything like rational bourgeois Capitalism fails to appear in any of the other great civilizations of the world. But instead of really doing a comparative study of the different ethics of other religions and ascetic Protestantism to analyze the relevance to the spirit of Capitalism, many authors criticize his work because it is rather meant as a substantiation of his thesis in the Protestant Ethic.523 He is stating that the ideals of a certain religion support the arising of Capitalism. He analyzes Confucianism to demonstrate that ―China‘s failure to develop rational bourgeois Capitalism owed mainly to the absence of a particular kind of religious ethic as the needed motivating force‖.524 That is probably due to the fact that China did not exhibit typical features of Capitalism such as rationalization, mechanization and growing urbanization. Max Weber scrutinizes the Chinese culture to see which aspects inhibited the development of rational Capitalism.
He first takes the monetary system and the cities into account, choosing these areas because they show the closest affinity to analogue factors in the West that did lead to rational Capitalism. Additionally, he also compares the type of agriculture in both regions.
In China, this involved large scale works of irrigation and flood control. It was managed by a central authority, and once established did not need to ―transform this mode of sustenance‖ and thus the system remained stable.525 Money is an important instrument of economic exchange, facilitating the acquisition and accumulation of wealth, and determining profits and losses in business operations. Weber also claims China historically failed to establish an effective monetary system conducted by the state which was an obstacle to the development of capitalistic structures.526 Also, the occidental city with its bourgeois inhabitants as birthplace of Western Capitalism was missing in China.527 Weber explains that with the following reasoning: ―The Chinese city god was merely a local protective deity, not the god of the community: usually he was a canonized urban mandarin‖.528 Thus, China's cities, due to their lack of military and political autonomy could not guarantee the legal and financial grounds necessary for capitalistic businesses.529 Weber justifies his argugions. Please refer to Sieferle, 2003 and for a general overview: Pomeranz, 2000, presenting the California School, and Huang, 1990 for the more recent and Elvin, 1984 as well as Elvin, 1996 for the earlier debate.
Lin, 1995 is representative for a more technological explanation. More general on Chinese economic history:
Deng, 1999 and Arrighi, 2007.
Hamilton, 1984, p. 400f. and Parsons, 1967 , p. 530 and 539f.
Weber, 1968, Introduction, p. xiv.
Mayes, 1977, p. 163 and Li, 1998, p. 1-15, 157-180.
For a more differentiated – and accurate - picture, see Vogel, 1986, Wang, 1992. As a sidenote: In Weber‘s critical review on Chinese towns, he overlooked the fact that these were indeed run by merchants, disguised as scholar officials. Faure, 2006, p. 20.
For a detailed discussion on the relation of bourgeoisie and Capitalism, please refer to chapter 8.1.
Weber and Andreski, 2006, p. 60.
See for a comparison Skinner, 1977.
ments with the fact that China was unified very early (around 200 B.C.) which was followed by a centralized administration under a national bureaucracy. Although the flow of goods was fostered by political peace, this situation at the same time prohibited competition between feudal states like in Europe. Thus, without the pressure of competition and rivalry there was not much stimulation for capitalistic enterprises.530 The central bureaucracy was conducted by Mandarins, a class of civil servants, who were primarily recruited from the literati. Access to this status was not given by birth but was the result of the passing of examinations, which not only required the mastery of Chinese writing and literature but also knowing the Confucian principles by heart. Although this procedure of qualifying objectified the process, due to the limited amount of positions the selection of candidates could still be influenced through personal connections.531 Additionally, in contrast to rational bureaucracy the efficiency of this system was reduced because Confucianism did not see specialization as suitable for an educated man.532 This is related to the fact that Chinese families instead of investing in rational enterprises deemed it more worthwhile to invest in their own family member's education, so they could become educated and later on probably a Mandarin. This would result in various advantages for the family once the member was part of the administration. It also meant that the extensive kinship organization did not support the development of independence and individualism, another social prerequisite to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
In addition, Weber compares his view on Confucian and puritan rationalism, both designing a lifestyle according to their respective religious requirements, both in principal consistent with accumulation of wealth for him.533 He claims that Confucianism as the dominant value system in China is serving as life orientation especially for the class of literati. It leads to a this-worldly orientation, having no metaphysical, transcendental foundation.
It is based on traditionalism instead of change and innovation, hence also celebrating traditional conservative education and literature and accepting the existing order.534 In Confucianism the merchant is not associated with a high social status. This is related to the ideal of a gentleman for whom it is more important to be able to cite classical quotations than to engage in business. The merchant's importance lies in guaranteeing the lifestyle of the genWeber, 1968, p. xxff. and 20ff., actually, although unified politically, China was no integrated economic region till 1923. See Skinner, 1985.
Parsons, 1967 , p. 543f. and Hamilton, 1984, p. 403, please see also chapter 8.
Weber, 1968, p. 159f.
Weber, 1963 , Zwischenbetrachtung, p. 534.
Parsons, 1967 , p. 548.
try. Thus, the position of the merchant, trade and the accumulation of wealth were not forbidden but should not extend without limits.
As described above, the heart of Confucian ethic is tào (道), "which is the immutable order of harmony, tranquility, and equilibrium underlying the universe and human society".535 Thus, Confucianism is presented in Weber's work as conservative and traditional and thus impedimental to rational bourgeois Capitalism. Moreover, for him it also correlates to the rigidification of Catholicism.536 Of course, the institutional preconditions such as separation of household and business, the emergence of rational bureaucracy and book-keeping is also said to be missing in China.537 Although some beneficial pre-conditions existed, like a long period of relative peace under the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)538 and the growth of a diligent population, Capitalism did not evolve.539 Weber accounts the patrimonial order of the state and the importance of kinship organization and thus "the unbroken and continued existence of the cohesive sib and the pre-eminent position of its head"540 for the inhibition of a bourgeois Capitalism.
"Rational and calculable administration and law enforcement, necessary for industrial development, did not exist"541, hence individualization and capitalistic production were missing.
This rationale presents a very common view of China of the time, namely, that China embodies a ―recalcitrant traditionalism that has resisted modernization‖.542 Max Weber only had access to translated and therefore somewhat limited sources and thus based his analysis on his understanding of ancient Mediterranean societies.543 Still, he comes to the conclusion that ―Confucian rationalism meant rational adjustment to the world; Puritan rationalism meant rational mastery of the world‖.544 "The Confucian way of life was rational but was determined, unlike Puritanism, from without rather than from within. The contrast can teach us that mere sobriety and thriftiness combined with acquisitiveness and regard for wealth were far from representing and far from releasing 'the capitalist spiWeber, 1968, p. xxix.
Balazs, 1977 , p. 18f.
Hollstein, 2002, p. 44.
The Qing Dynasty was the last Imperial dynasty of China. The dynasty was founded by the Manchu clan Aisin Gioro in northeast China (Manchuria). It expanded into China, establishing the Empire of the Great Qing, with complete pacification of China in 1683. The Qing Dynasty was overthrown following the Xinhai Revolution on Feb 12, 1912. Dunstan, 1996.
Schluchter, 1983, p. 42.
Weber, 1968, p. 66.
Weber, 1968, p. 100.
Yang, 1994, p. 36f.
Hamilton, 1984, p. 404.
Schluchter, 1983, p. 41 and Weber, 1968, p. 248.
rit'‖.545 According to Weber, Confucianism aimed at making rational adjustment to eternally given social structures, which means that it took the world as set and thus, given. So although China had rationality, it was static and hence not prone to new developments and the initiation of drastic changes.546 Confucianism also lacked the emotional pressure and dynamic of Puritanism that drove the faithful to rebuild the world according to God's wishes. In contrast, Confucianism emphasized orderliness and self-discipline, thus being ―a prudent policy of sound conservatism‖.547 Confucianism tends to a traditional society; it is also not as opposed to nepotism and favoritism as Puritan ethic. The latter is based on universalism that applies its ethics impersonally to everybody, not only to relatives. The particularism of the Confucian ethic contrasts sharply with this. It is based on the personal relations of individuals especially to their kinship.548 As indicated before, it is speculated that the purpose of Weber's analysis is to support his previous work on rational Capitalism based on a certain spirit as prerequisite for its emergence. He is not really interested in presenting China's society and value system systematically; his intention is merely to contrast the Chinese economy with the Western. He wants to prove the uniqueness of the Western phenomenon. He thus stresses that the development taking place in the Western world was a singular event without really scrutinizing the Asian culture thoroughly.549 In contrast Elvin emphasizes that to explain why Capitalism has not developed in China, economic and ecological reasons alone would suffice and the detour to religion as Weber does is not necessary. Among other reasons, those facts are easier to verify empirically.550 According to Weber, cultural factors are the reason for rational Capitalism not arising in China, but they still have facilitated the reception of modern Capitalism there once it was created somewhere else.551 Hence, Weber argues that Confucian cultures are able to absorb Capitalism more easily than other non-western societies. The reason for this he attributes to the specific role of family networks and the importance of learning for the Confucian culture.552 He perceives this as essential for an easy incorporation of Capitalism, even though the very same culture did not form Capitalism by itself. Weber's research interest in ChiWeber, 1968, p. 247.
Elvin, 1984, p. 38.
Parsons, 1967 , p. 548 Parsons, 1967 , p. 550f. See also chapter 6.
Hollstein, 2002, p. 46.
Elvin, 1984, p. 379. Please see also fn 522.
See Hollstein, 2002.
Weber, 1968, p. 248.
nese Confucianism is due to its rational utilitarian characteristics which allow to draw analogies to the occident and to explain why one society was able to create Capitalism whereas the other was not. This made the singularity of development of Western Capitalism extremely insightful and comprehensible and thus supported his previous research.553 According to Weber, within the patriarchal structure of China, the family head and the head of state held discretionary power over rituals and administration, respectively. He asserts that ―family piety, resting on the belief in spirits, was by far the strongest influence on man‘s conduct.‖554 He emphasizes institutional factors, such as family and networks, to be of great significance for the development of a completely different system of economy and society.555 Weber justifies that with a "lack of a particular mentality" with a "personalistic principle" being in place in China with traits like absence of curiosity, credulity or stolidity derived from Confucian values.556 Additionally, Weber claims that "the Chinese soul has never been revolutionized by a prophet"557 and thus its traditionalism is reinforced by a lack of ethical demands, raised by prophets or a "supramundane God"558, who might be able to set up new ethical norms. In contrast, Protestantism was able to shatter the fetters of the sib.559 <
The economic rise of the Asian region, most recently of the People‘s Republic of China, created the need to develop a capitalistic system which turned out to be different to the Capitalisms found elsewhere. With the economic reforms in China after 1978 a gradual shift from socialism and the planned economy towards a capitalistic market economy took place, with an increasing pace since the 1990s. This coincided with an increasingly flexible global production, both probably mutually influencing each other.561 Schluchter, 1983, p. 15ff.
Weber, 1968, p. 236.
Hamilton, 1984, p. 397.
Weber, 1968, p. 104, 231f. and 236.
Weber, 1968, p. 142.
Weber, 1968, p. 229f.
Weber, 1968, p. 237.
Legge, 1893, p. 170.
Dirlik, 1997, p.304. Please refer to chapter 5 for a detailed outline of the historical events and as discussion of the importance of the family for economic development.