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Max Weber in Twentieth-Century China

Tue, June 23, 2:00 to 3:55pm, South Building, Floor: 7th Floor, S719


This paper examines the reception of Max Weber’s works in mainland China, beginning with Zheng Taipiao’s 1937 translation of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft for the Commercial Press, and through the Reform-era animation of Weber in the 1980s and 1990s. In periods of great historical transition and ideological rupture in modern China, consideration of Max Weber’s works functioned as a prism through which Chinese intellectuals considered the relationship between culture, capitalism, and political economy. Focusing in particular on the 1980s and 1990s “Weber passion” (Weibo re), his works came to function as a cornerstone in the emergent post-socialist rhetoric of liberal reform. Believing that Weberian thought was intimately relevant to the future of China’s development, scholars such as Su Guoxun, Gan Yang, Yu Xiao, Wang Rongfen, Wei Zhangling, and Xu Hongbin championed the German thinker to academic audiences. Through a close analysis of their writings and translations, this paper will examine the significance of Weber’s presence in the Chinese context, arguing that Chinese engagement with Weber’s anti-Marxist articulation of culture’s role in the rise of capitalism ultimately were to inform the ideologies of capitalist modernization that characterize China’s political economy today.