Weberian Thesis and East Asian Development: Heterodoxy and Economic Activities

Vol. 23 No. 3   12/1993   


Weberian Thesis and East Asian Development: Heterodoxy and Economic Activities


Wei-an Chang 









Key words



    In “The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism”, Weber classifies “Chinese religion” into orthodoxy and heterodoxy and considers Confucianism belonging to the former and Taoism to the latter. Generally speaking, people tend to see the “Weberian Thesis” as “Confucianism and Chinese capitalism” and ignore completely the importance of the role of heterodoxy in his thesis. In this paper, I want to argue that there is something new in the Weberian thesis. Though Confucianism is an orthodoxy in Chinese society, I disagree with the fact that the economic activities in China 

should only be investigated from the point of view of orthodoxy. As far as the discussion of the ideas and attitudes of acquisition of profit in China is concerned, Taoism or vulgar Taoism, I contend, should be more important than Confucianism. Based on this assumption, I divide the arguments of my paper into two parts: the first part deals with some of the characteristics related to the profit-seeking which include the practical culture and economic activities, the magic quality of profit-seeking, and the instrumentality of substantive rationality; and the second part analyzes the characteristics of Chinese economic activities which are consisted of the capitalism with traditional temperament, short-term business with the sense of homelessness, and the benefit of small business resulted from personal network system at the expenses of the obstruction of the large-scale development. In this paper, the concept pf heterodoxy is of vital importance to our investigation of the characteristics of economic activities in China.



Author: Wei-an Chang
Genre: Article