• Jack Barbalet


Commentaries on The Religion of China focus on Weber’s treatment of Confucianism and ignore his treatment of Daoism, the other major Chinese thought tradition. This chapter corrects that omission. Weber’s use of sources in his construction of Daoism is examined and the chapter then critically considers his characterization of an early Daoist text, Daodejing, as mystical. Confucian ‘orthodoxy’ is contrasted with Daoist ‘heterodoxy’ in Weber’s account. It is shown in the chapter that this framework is a projection of European ideological and political practices inadequate for understanding Chinese institutions. These latter are indifferent to their subjects beliefs and concerned with their behavior, orthopraxy not orthodoxy. Finally, it is shown that Weber’s approach prevents appreciation of the contribution of Daoist thought to a Chinese entrepreneurial spirit.


  1. Ames, Roger T. and Hall, David L. 2003. Daodejing: A Philosophical Translation. New York: Ballantine Books.Google Scholar
  2. Balazs, Etienne. 1966. Chinese Civilization and Bureaucracy. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Barbalet, Jack. 2011. ‘Market Relations as Wuwei: Daoist Concepts in Analysis of China’s Post-1978 Market Economy’. Asian Studies Review. 35(3): 335–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bendix, Reinhard. 1966. Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  5. Callis, Helmut G. 1942. Foreign Capital in Southeast Asia. New York: Institute of Pacific Relations.Google Scholar
  6. Chan, Wing-Tsit. 1963. ‘The Way of Lao Tzu: Introduction’. Pp. 3–93 in his The Way of Lao Tzu: Tao-te ching. London: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  7. Chien, Szuma. 1979. Selections from Records of the Historian, translated by Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang. Peking: Foreign Languages Press.Google Scholar
  8. Chua, Jude Soo-Meng. 2010. ‘Tracing the Dao: Wang Bi’s Theory of Names’. Pp. 53–70 in Philosophy and Religion in Early Medieval China, edited by Alan K.L. Chan and Yuet-Keung Lo. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  9. Creel, Herrlee G. 1977. ‘What is Taoism?’ Pp. 1–24 in his What is Taoism? And Other Studies in Chinese Cultural History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  10. Csikszentmihalyi, Mark. 1999. ‘Mysticism and Apophatic Discourse in the Laozi’. Pp. 33–58 in Religious and Philosophical Aspects of the Laozi, edited by Mark Csikszentmihalyi and P.J. Ivanhoe. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  11. DeBernardi, Jean Elizabeth. 2006. The Way that Lives in the Heart: Chinese Popular Religion and Spiritual Mediums in Penang, Malaysia. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. de Groot, Jan Jakob Marie. 1910. The Religion of the Chinese. New York: Macmillan,Google Scholar
  13. DiMaggio, Paul. 1997. ‘Culture and Cognition’. Annual Review of Sociology. 23: 263–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Duyvendak, J.J.L. 1954. Tao Te Ching: The Book of the Way and its Virtue. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  15. Eastman, Lloyd E. 1988. Family, Field, and Ancestors: Constancy and Change in China’s Social and Economic History, 1550–1949. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Elvin, Mark. 1973. The Patterns of the Chinese Past: A Social and Economic Interpretation. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Emerson, John. 1995. ‘A Stratification of Lao Tzu’. Journal of Chinese Religions. 3: 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Erkes, Eduard. 1950. Ho-shang-kung’s Commentary on Lao-tse, translated and annotated by Eduard Erkes. Ascona: Artibus Asiae.Google Scholar
  19. Fung, Yu-lan. 1952. A History of Chinese Philosophy, volume 1. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Gerlach, Christian. 2005. Wuwei in Europe: A Study of Eurasian Economic Thought. Working Paper No 12/05. Department of Economic History, London School of Economics.Google Scholar
  21. Gernet, Jacques. 1996. A History of Chinese Civilization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Ghosh, Peter. 2008. ‘Max Weber’s Idea of “Puritanism”: A Case Study in the Empirical Construction of the Protestant Ethic’. Pp. 5–49 in his A Historian Reads Max Weber: Essays on the Protestant Ethic. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.Google Scholar
  23. Girardot, Norman J. 2002. The Victorian Translation of China: James Legge’s Oriental Pilgrimage. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  24. Granet, Marcel. 1975. The Religion of the Chinese People. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  25. Hansen, Chad. 1992. A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten. 2000. ‘Strange Notes on Modern Statistics and Traditional Popular Religion in China: Further Reflections on the Importance of Sinology for Social Science as Applied to China’. Pp. 171–89 in Opera Sinologica 11, Festschrift für Martin Gimm, edited by Lutz Bieg, Erling von Mende and Martina Siebert. Weisbaden: Harrossowitz Verlag.Google Scholar
  27. Hon, Tze-Ki. 2010. ‘Hexagrams and Politics: Wang Bi’s Political Philosophy in Zhouyi zhu’. Pp. 71–96 in Philosophy and Religion in Early Medieval China, edited by Alan K.L. Chan and Yuet-Keung Lo. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  28. Hudson, G.F. 1961. Europe and China: A Survey of their Relations from the Earliest Times to 1800. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  29. Ji, Li-Jun, Lee, Albert and Guo, Tieyuan. 2010. ‘The Thinking Styles of Chinese People’. Pp. 155–67 in The Oxford Handbook of Chinese Psychology, edited by Michael Harris Bond. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Kalberg, Stephen. 2012. Max Weber’s Comparative-Historical Sociology Today: Major Themes, Mode of Causal Analysis, and Applications. London: Ashagate.Google Scholar
  31. LaFargue, Michael. 1998. ‘Recovering the Tao-te-ching’s Original Meaning: Some Remarks on Historical Hermeneutics’. Pp. 255–75 in Lao-tzu and the Tao-te-ching, edited by Livia Kohn and Michael LaFargue. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  32. Lau, D.C. 1963. ‘Introduction’. Pp. vii–xlv in Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching, translated with an Introduction by D. C. Lau. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  33. Lau, D.C. 1979. Confucius: The Analects, translated with an Introduction by D. C. Lau. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  34. Lau, D.C. 2003. ‘Introduction’. Pp. vii–xlviii in Mencius, translated with an Introduction by D. C. Lau. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  35. Legge, James. 1880. The Religions of China: Confucianism and Taoism Described and Compared with Christianity. London: Hodder and Stoughton.Google Scholar
  36. Legge, James. 1962. The Texts of Taoism: The Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzŭ; The Writings of Chung Tzŭ. Part 1. New York: Dover Publications.Google Scholar
  37. Lufrano, Richard John. 1997. Honorable Merchants: Commerce and Self-Cultivation in Late Imperial China. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.Google Scholar
  38. Lynn, Richard John. 1994. The Classic of Changes. A New Translation of the I Ching as Interpreted by Wang Bi. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Lynn, Richard John. 1999. The Classic of the Way and Virtue: A New Translation of the Tao-te ching of Laozi as Interpreted by Wang Bi. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Mote, Frederick W. 1989. Intellectual Foundations of China. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  41. Needham, Joseph. 1956. Science and Civilization in China. Volume 2, History of Scientific Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Nisbett, Richard. 2003. The Geography of Thought. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  43. Reichwein, Adolf. 1968. China and Europe: Intellectual and Artistic Contacts in the Eighteenth Century. New York: Barnes and Noble.Google Scholar
  44. Reid, Anthony (ed). 1996. Sojourners and Settlers: Histories of Southeast Asia and the Chinese. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  45. Schluchter, Wolfgang. 1989. Rationalism, Religion and Domination. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  46. Schumpeter, Joseph A. 1991. ‘Comments on a Plan for the Study of Entrepreneurship’. Pp. 406–28 in The Economics and Sociology of Capitalism, edited by Richard Swedberg. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  47. Schwartz, Benjamin I. 1985. The World of Thought in Ancient China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Slingerland, Edward. 2007. Effortless Action: Wu-wei as Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Early China. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Swidler, Ann. 1986. ‘Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies’. American Sociological Review. 51(2): 273–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tagliacozzo, Eric and Chang, Wen-Chin. (eds). 2011. Chinese Circulations: Capital, Commodities and Networks in Southeast Asia. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Tao, Hanzhang. 2000. Sun Tzu’s Art of War. New York: Sterling Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  52. Waley, Arthur. 1958. The Way and Its Power: Lao Tzu’s Tao Tê Ching and Its Place in Chinese Thought. New York: Grove Press.Google Scholar
  53. Wang, Gungwu. 1991. ‘Merchants without Empires: The Hokkien Sojourning Communities’. Pp. 79–101 in his China and the Chinese Overseas. Singapore: Times Academic Press.Google Scholar
  54. Watson, James L. 1985. ‘Standardizing the Gods: The Promotion of T’ien Hou (“Empress of Heaven”) Along the South China Coast, 960–1960’. Pp. 292–324 in Popular Culture in Late Imperial China, edited by David Johnson, Andrew Nathan and Evelyn Rawski. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  55. Watson, James L. 1993. ‘Rites or Beliefs? The Construction of a Unified Culture in Late Imperial China’. Pp. 80–103 in China’s Quest for National Identity, edited by Lowell Dittmer and Samuel S. Kim. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  56. 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
  57. Welch, Holmes. 2003. Taoism: The Parting of the Way. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  58. Yang, Ching Kun. 1961. Religion in Chinese Society. Berkley: University of California Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations