Abstract: Weber’s research on Confucian economic ethics arose from his hypothesis that Western capitalism owed its unique quality to Puritanism. It led him to search for equivalents in other cultures through the comparative study of world religions. The idea of the world and an ethic that shaped inner-worldly action inspired by hopes of the next world had developed from ancient Western and Christian thought, which at one point suggested to Leibniz universal beliefs shared with Chinese classics. That idea was lost with the development of Western rationalism, science and modernity. By Weber’s time, the idea of the world was conflated with the idea of an objective science of social reality, which he projected into his studies of Chinese culture, hence the criticisms of his ethnocentrism. Tianxia and shijie, translations of ‘world’, belong to a distinct world view, where the ideal of the consummate person, junzi, provides self-transcendence directed towards improving life on this earth rather than life in the next. Weber’s receptivity to other cultures changed in accordance with his view that empirical sociology involved understanding the meaning of human action, and, in studying China to the end of his life, he came to recognize that Confucianism was more than an adaptation to the everyday world but also an inner-worldly ethic in tension with and shaping the world. He eventually emphasized cultural differences in the definition of ethics and can be seen as a forerunner of phenomenological views of many worlds, in which the West and China may find common understandings.
Keywords: Max Weber, Leibniz, Confucianism, ethics, rationalism, tianxia, shijie, social reality, junzi (consummate person), world view, ethnocentrism, adaptation, transcendence, universalism, multiculturalism, trans-cultural communication.
ZHANG Xiaoying, PhD, Professor of English and International Studies, is the executive dean of the School of International Journalism and Communication at Beijing Foreign Studies University. Her specialties include international journalism, cross-cultural communication and global studies. She worked in the Ministry of Education (1996-1997) and as a diplomat in Australia (1999-2001). She was a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge (2010-2011). She contributes to the Chinese and British press and has published papers on international journalism and communication. Her major book in English is The Economist’s Construction of Globalization (1985-2010): A Narrative Analysis with a Chinese Perspective.
Martin Albrow, FAcSS, Honorary Vice-President of the British Sociological Association, Founding Editor of the journal International Sociology, Emeritus Professor of University of Wales, former Visiting Professor in the UK, USA, China, and Senior Fellow at LSE, UK, and University of Bonn, Germany. He is internationally known for his pioneering work on social and cultural globalization. His book, The Global Age: State and Society Beyond Modernity (1996), won the European Amalfi Prize in 1997. His other books include Bureaucracy (1970), Max Weber’s Construction of Social Theory (1990), Do Organizations Have Feelings? (1997), and Sociology: The Basics (1999), Global Age Essays on Social and Cultural Change (2014).
Cite this article
ZHANG Xiaoying and Martin Albrow
Max Weber, China and the world In search of transcultural communication
Journal of China in Comparative Perspective
Vol.2 Issue 1. 2016, p31-53