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The “spirit” of capitalism in China: Contemporary meanings of Weber’s thought

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Chapter Summary

This chapter attempts to apply the theories of the German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) to understand China's experience of moving toward a market economy and capitalism. In so doing, it intends to bring together the last two decades of critical discussion of Weber's theory from academics worldwide - and China in particular, to juxtapose his theory with China's actual socioeconomic development, and to evaluate whether his theory can account for China's economic performance. Weber once suggested the use of two yardsticks - "causal explanation" and "meaning adequacy" - to evaluate research outcomes in the social sciences. Through the investigation of theories and the interpretation of empirical experience, the chapter hopes to provide readers with a deeper understanding of the spiritual facets of China's economic growth, while at the same time endowing Weber's theory with a more contemporary meaning.

Keywords: capitalism; China; market economy; Max Weber; socioeconomic development; spiritual facets



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