Russian Sociological Review 14 (3):113-135 (2015)

The chapter of Max Weber’s The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism analyzes the basic life orientations within Confucian ethics, and their economic implications. The author suggests that since the Chinese civilization had no powerful independent social class of priesthood, its functions were performed by the state bureaucracy. Furthermore, the author points out the absence of natural law and formal juridical logic in Chinese life, which had a significant impact on Chinese legal consciousness. In the main part of the chapter, the author reveals the essence of Confucianism as a type of rational secular ethics. He emphasizes the freedom of metaphysics, and the secular nature of Confucianism. Weber makes the notion of “decency” central to his analysis of the Confucian ethical worldview. He also demonstrates, through the concept of “deference”, the structural identity of personal relationships within the family and the bureaucratic hierarchy. The economic views of Confucian-educated bureaucrats, or the so-called mandarins, is analyzed as based on the strict rejection of any professionalization and specialization. The author emphasizes the positive attitude of Confucianism towards personal wealth and well-being, which was not perceived as an ethical problem. Weber underlines the importance of a classical literary education of potential candidates for responsible positions in the civil service, and the resulting personal benefits. Weber also posits the fundamentally pacifist nature of Confucianism. Weber concludes with the thesis of the absence in Confucianism of any methodical life orientations that characterize the religions of salvation
Keywords economic ethics   Confucianism   rationalism   bureaucracy   Max Weber
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