• Jack Barbalet


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.


  1. Ang, Yuen Yuen. 2016. How China Escaped the Poverty Trap. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Hall, Peter A. and Soskice, David. 2001. Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Metzger, Thomas A. 1977. Escape from Predicament: Neo- Confucianism and China’s Evolving Political Culture. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  4. van der Sprenkel, O.B. 1954. ‘Review: Chinese Religion’. British Journal of Sociology. 5(3): 272–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Weber, Max. 1978. Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, edited by Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  6. Weber, Max. 1981. General Economic History, translated by Frank Knight with a new Introduction by Ira J. Cohen. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books.Google Scholar
  7. Weber, Max. 1964. The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism, translated and edited by Hans H. Gerth, with an Introduction by C.K. Yang. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  8. Weber, Max. 1991. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, translated by Talcott Parsons. London: Harper Collins.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jack Barbalet
    • 1
  1. 1.Australian Catholic UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations