Why did Max Weber, a founder of modern sociology, write about China? Weber’s best known work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, argues that Calvinism alone provides a sense of ‘vocation’ that entails an ethic of focused worldly activity. This ethic is the basis of the idea of moneymaking for its own sake, the capitalist ethos. It is shown in this Introduction that Weber believed that he could confirm this approach to the origins of capitalism by contrasting his case of the development of capitalism in Europe with societies that lacked what he saw as fully rationalized religion, and hence his interest in China. This Introduction summarizes the chapters of the first book-length treatment in English of Weber’s The Religion of China.
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