Skip to content

Weber and the Concept of Adaptation: the Case of Confucian Ethics

DOI https://doi.org/10.15543/MWS/2014/2/4

Martin Albrow, Zhang Xiaoying


Throughout his work Weber made extensive use of a concept of adaptation, usually associated with evolutionism, but he was as critical of it as he was of historical materialism and in his concern for identifying the precise importance of ideas in explaining historical developments he rejected both grand narratives. We can detect through examining the sequence of his writing on Chinese ethics how his idea of adaptation to the world evolved over time to the point where he found it of limited use for China but still applicable to the Jesuits, who on their own experience of China were authors of an ethical concept of adaptation that antedated Darwin and coloured Weber’s thought. He shifts emphasis from adaptation to tension (Spannung) which takes on equivalent importance to autonomy (Eigengesetz­lichkeit) and rationality in explaining the impact of ethics on economic action.

Martin Albrow 1

Zhang Xiaoying 2

1 Martin Albrow is Emeritus Professor of the University of Wales and Senior Fellow of the Käte Hamburger Centre for Advanced Studies, Law as Culture, University of Bonn. He is an Honorary Vice President of the British Sociological Association and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. His most recent books are editor and translator (with Elisabeth King-Utz) of Niklas Luhmann, A Sociological Theory of Law (Routledge, 2014) and Global Age Essays on Social and Cultural Change (Klostermann, 2014).

2 Zhang Xiaoying, PhD, is an associate professor and executive dean of the School of International Journalism and Communication at Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU). She received a BA in English language and literature from Zhejiang University in 1985, a BA in international journalism from Shanghai International Studies University in 1987, a MA in British studies from Warwick University in the UK in 1991, and PhD in International Communication from the BFSU. She was a visiting fellow at Cambridge University in the UK from 2010 to 2011. Her main areas of teaching and research started with English language education and post-war British politics, and then extended into British media history, media theory, media discourse analysis, and cross-cultural communication.

1 Albrow, Martin. 1975. ‘Legal Positivism and Bourgeois Materialism: Max Weber’s View of the Sociology of Law’. British Journal of Law and Society 2.1: 14-31. [Crossref]

2 Albrow, Martin. 1987. ‘The Application of the Weberian Concept of Rationalization to Contemporary Conditions’. In Max Weber, Rationality and Modernity, ed. Sam Whimster and Scott Lash, 164-82. London: Allen & Unwin.

3 Albrow, Martin. 1990. Max Weber’s Construction of Social Theory. London: Macmillan. [Crossref]

4 Barbalet, Jack. 2014 forthcoming. ‘The Religion of China and the Prospects of Chinese Capitalism’. In The Anthem Companion to Max Weber, ed. Alan Sica. London: Anthem Press.

5 Baumgarten, Eduard. 1964. Max Weber: Werk und Person. Tübingen: Mohr.

6 Boese, Franz. 1939. Geschichte des Vereins für Sozialpolitik. Munich: Duncker and Humblot.

7 Beetham, David. 1974. Max Weber and the Theory of Modern Politics. London: Allen and Unwin.

8 Bendix, Reinhard. 1960. Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait. London: Heinemann.

9 Caruana, Louis. 2008. ‘The Jesuits and the Quiet Side of the Scientific Revolution’. In The Cambridge Companion to the Jesuits, ed. Thomas Worcester, 243-62. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Crossref]

10 Channing, William E. 1870. Complete Works. London: George Routledge.

11 Darmon, Isabelle. 2011. ‘No “new spirit”? Max Weber’s account of the dynamic of contemporary capitalism through “pure adaptation” and the shaping of adequate subjects’. Max Weber Studies11.2: 193-216. [Crossref]

12 Darwin, Charles. 1859 [1928]. The Origin of Species. London: Dent.

13 Eisenstadt, Schmuel. 1983. ‘Innerweltlich Transzendenz und die Stukturierung der Welt. Max Webers Studie über China und die Gestalt der Chinesischen Zivilisation’. In Max Webers Studie über Konfuzianismus und Taoismus, ed. Wolfgang Schluchter, 363-411. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

14 Fischer, H. Karl. 1907. ‘Kritische Beiträge zu Professor Max Webers Abhandlung “Die Protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus”’. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 25.1: 232-42. In Die Protestantische Ethik. II. Kritiken und Antikritiken, ed. Johannes Winckelmann 1972, 11-26. Hamburg: Siebenstern.

15 Fischer, H. Karl. 1908. ‘“Protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus”. Replik auf Herrn Professor Max Webers Gegenkritik’. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 26.1: 270-74. In Die Protestantische Ethik. II. Kritiken und Antikritiken, ed. Johannes Winckelmann 1972, 38-43. Hamburg: Siebenstern.

16 Franke, Herbert. 1966. ‘Max Webers Soziologie der ostasiastischen Religionen’. In Max Weber. Gedächtnisschrift der Ludwig Maximilians Universität München, ed. Karl Engisch, Bernhard Pfister and Johannes Winckelmann, 115-30. Hamburg: Siebenstern.

17 Goldman, Harvey. 1988. Max Weber and Thomas Mann. Berkeley: University of California Press.

18 Gonzales Garcia, José M. 2011. ‘Max Weber, Goethe and Rilke: The Magic of Language and Music in a Disenchanted World’. Max Weber Studies 11.2: 267-88.

19 Groot. J.J.M. De. 1910. The Religion of the Chinese. New York: Macmillan.

20 Groot. J.J.M. De. 1918. Universismus: Die Grundlage der Religion und Ethik, des Staatswesens und der Wissenschaften Chinas. Berlin: Georg Reimer.

21 Han, Qi. 1998. ‘Bai Jin De Yi Jing Yan Jiu He Kang Xi Shi Dai De “Xi Xue Zhong Yuan” Shuo (Joachim Bouvet’s Study on Yi Jing and the Theory of Western Culture Being of Chinese Origin in Kangxi Period)’. Han Xue Yan Jiu (The Study of Sinology), No. 1.

22 Hawthorne, Nathaniel. [1850] 2000. The Scarlet Letter. New York: Modern Library.

23 He, Fangchuan, ed. 2008. Zhong Wai Wen Hua Jiao Liu Shi (A History of Cultural Exchange Between China and Foreign Countries), Book I–II. Beijing: China International Culture Press Limited.

24 Honigsheim, Paul. 1963. ‘Erinnerungen an Max Weber’. In Max Weber zum Gedächtnis, ed. René König and Johannes Winckelmann, 161-271. Köln and Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag. [Crossref]

25 Kalberg, Stephen. 2012. Max Weber’s Comparative-Historical Sociology Today. Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate.

26 Li, Tusheng. 2009. Tusheng Shuo Zi (Tusheng’s Study on Chinese Characters). Beijing: Central Documentary Press.

27 Löwith, Karl. 1982. Max Weber and Karl Marx. London: Allen & Unwin.

28 Metzger, Thomas. 1983. ‘Max Webers Analyse der Konfuzianische Tradition: Eine Kritik’. In Max Webers Studie über Konfuzianismus und Taoismus, ed. Wolfgang Schluchter, 229-70. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

29 Molloy, Stephen. 1980. ‘Max Weber and the religions of China: any way out of the maze?’. British Journal of Sociology 31.3: 377-400. [Crossref]

30 Mommsen, Wolfgang J. 1984. Max Weber and German Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

31 Mommsen, Wolfgang J., and Jürgen Osterhammel, eds. 1987. Max Weber and his Contemporaries. London: German Historical Institute and Allen & Unwin.

32 Mungello, D.E. 1989. Curious Land: Jesuits’ Accommodation and the Origin of Sinology. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

33 Parsons, Talcott. 1965. ‘Introduction’. In Max Weber, The Sociology of Religion, xix-lxvii. London: Methuen. [Crossref]

34 Peel, J.D.Y. 1971. Herbert Spencer: The Evolution of a Sociologist. London: Heinemann.

35 Radkau, Joachim. 2009. Max Weber: a Biography. Cambridge: Polity.

36 Roth, Guenther, and Wolfgang Schluchter. 1979. Max Weber’s Vision of History: Ethics and Methods. Berkeley: University of California.

37 Runciman, W.G. 2001. ‘Was Weber a Selectionist in Spite of Himself?’. Journal of Classical Sociology 1.1: 13-32. [Crossref]

38 Scaff, Lawrence A. 1989. Fleeing the Iron Cage: Culture and Modernity in the Thought of Max Weber. Berkeley: University of California.

39 Schluchter, Wolfgang. 1983. ‘Einleitung Max Webers Konfuzianismusstudie—Versuch eine Einordnung’. In Max Webers Studie über Konfuzianismus und Taoismus, ed. Wolfgang Schluchter, 11-54. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

40 Schluchter, Wolfgang. 1984. ‘Max Webers Religionssoziologie. Eine werkgeschichtliche Rekonstruktion’. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 36: 342.

41 Schluchter, Wolfgang. 2014. ‘“How Ideas become Effective in History”: Max Weber on Confucianism and Beyond’. Max Weber Studies 14.1: 9-29. [Crossref]

42 Schluchter, Wolfgang, ed. 1983. Max Webers Studie über Konfuzianismus und Taoismus. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

43 Schluchter, Wolfgang, ed. 1984. Max Webers Studie über Hinduismus und Buddhismus. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

44 Schmidt-Glintzer, Helwig, and Petra Kolonko. 1989. ‘Editorisches Bericht’. In Max Weber, Die Wirtschaftsethik der Weltreligionen, Konfuzianismus und Taoismus: Schriften 1915–20, 31-73. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr.

45 Schroeder, Ralph. 1992. Max Weber and the Sociology of Culture. London: Sage.

46 Standaert, Nicolas. 2008. ‘Jesuits in China’. In The Cambridge Companion to the Jesuits, ed. Thomas Worcester, 169-85. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Crossref]

47 Tenbruck, Friedrich H. 1980. ‘The problem of thematic unity in the works of Max Weber’. British Journal of Sociology 31.3: 316-51. [Crossref]

48 Tu, Weiming. 1983. ‘Die Neo-Konfuzianische Ontologie’. In Max Webers Studie über Konfuzianismus und Taoismus, ed. Wolfgang Schluchter, 271-97. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

49 Weber, Marianne. 1975. Max Weber: a Biography. New York: Wiley. [Crossref]

50 Weber, Max. 1895. ‘Der Nationalstaat und die Volkswirtschaftspolitik’. In 1958. Gesammelte Politische Schriften, 1-25. In Collected Methodological Writings, translated and edited by H.H. Bruun and S. Whimster [referred to as ‘Freiburg Inaugural’].

51 Weber, Max. 1904/5. ‘Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus’. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik [ASwSp] 20.1: 1-54; 21.1: 1-110 [referred to as ‘early PE’].

52 Weber, Max. 1907/8a. ‘Kritische Bemerkungen zu den vorstehenden Kritischcn Beiträgen’. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 25.1: 243-49. In 1972 Die Protestantische Ethik. II. Kritiken und Antikritiken, ed. Johannes Winckelmann, 27-37. Hamburg: Siebenstern.

53 Weber, Max. 1907/8b. ‘Bemerkungen zu den vorstehenden “Replik”’. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 26.1: 275-83. In 1972 Die Protestantische Ethik. II. Kritiken und Antikritiken, ed. Johannes Winckelmann, 44-56 [referred to as ‘Fischer debate’].

54 Weber, Max. 1908/9a. ‘Methodologische Erhebungen über Auslese und Anpassung (Berufswahl und Berufsschicksal) der Arbeiterschaft der geschlossenen Großindustrie’ (Printed manuscript). In 1924, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Soziologie und Sozialpolitik, 1-60.

55 Weber, Max. 1908/9b. ‘Zur Psychophysik der industriellen Arbeit’. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 27.3: 730-70; 28.1: 219-77; 28.3: 719-61; 29.2: 513-42. In 1924, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Soziologie und Sozialpolitik: 109-255 [referred to as ‘Workforce studies’].

56 Weber, Max. 1913a. ‘Über einige Kategorien der verstehenden Soziologie’. Logos 4.3: 253-94. In 1968 Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Wissenschaftslehre. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 427-74. Translated in 2012 Collected Methodological Writings, ed. H.H. Bruun and Sam Whimster, 273-301 [referred to as Sociological Categories].

57 Weber, Max. 1913b. Manuscript of ‘Äußerungen zur Werturteilsdiskussion im Ausschuß des Vereins für Sozialpolitik’. In Eduard Baumgarten 1964, Max Weber: Werk und Person, 102-39 [referred to as Value Judgment Paper] (Expanded in 1917).

58 Weber, Max. 1915. ‘Die Wirtschaftsethik der Weltreligionen. Religionssoziologische Skizzen’ (The Economic Ethics of World Religions. Sociology of Religion Sketches) in Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 41, 1916 [referred to as WeWr1].

59 Weber, Max. 1915a. ‘Einleitung’. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 41.1: 1-29. As amended in 1920 GARS1 and translated in 1948 From Max Weber as ‘The Social Psychology of World Religions’, pp. 267-301. [Referred to as Introduction (1915a)].

60 Weber, Max. 1915b. ‘Die soziologischen Grundlagen’. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 41.1: 30-67. As amended in 1920 GARS1 and translated in 1951, The Religion of China [Referred to here as early Confucianism Studies (1915b)].

61 Weber, Max. 1915c. ‘Der “Geist” der konfuzianischen Bildung und die Wirtschaft’. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 41.1: 68-87. Amended in 1920 GARS1 and translated in 1951 The Religion of China [Referred to here as early Confucianism Studies (1915c)].

62 Weber, Max. 1915d. ‘Orthodoxie und Heterodoxie in ihren sozialethischen Wirkungen’. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 41.2: 335-71. Amended in 1920 GARS1 and translated in 1951, The Religion of China [Referred to here as early Confucianism Studies (1915d)].

63 Weber, Max. 1915e. ‘Zusammenfassung. Konfuzianismus und Puritanismus’. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 41.2: 372-86. Amended in 1920 GARS1 and translated in 1951, The Religion of China [Referred to here as Conclusion of early Confucianism Studies (1915e)].

64 Weber, Max. 1915f. ‘Zwischenbetrachtung: Stufen und Richtungen der religiöser Weltablehnung’. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 41.2: 387-421. Amended in 1920 GARS1 and translated in 1948. From Max Weber, ed. H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills as ‘Religious Rejections of the World and Their Directions’, 323-62 [Referred to as Intermediate Reflections (1915f)].

65 Weber, Max. 1917. ‘Der Sinn der “Wertfreiheit” der soziologischen und ökonomischen Wissenschaften’, Logos: Internationale Zeitschrift für Philosophie der Kultur 7.1: 40-88. In 1968 Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Wissenschaftslehre, 489-539. Translated in 2012, Collected Methodological Writings, ed. H.H. Bruun and Sam Whimster, 304-334 [Referred to as Value Freedom article].

66 Weber, Max. 1920. Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Religionssoziologie. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr. Vol. 1. [Referred to as GARS1].

67 Weber, Max. 1921. Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Religionssoziologie. Bd. 2 Hinduismus und Buddhismus. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr. [Referred to as GARS2].

68 Weber, Max. 1923. Wirtschaftsgeschichte, ed. S. Hellman and M. Palyi. Munich and Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot.

69 Weber, Max. 1924. Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Soziologie und Sozialpolitik. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr.

70 Weber, Max. 1948. From Max Weber, ed. H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills. London: Routledge. [Crossref]

71 Weber, Max. 1951. The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism, trans. and ed. Hans H. Gerth. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

72 Weber, Max. 1956a. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, 4th edn. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr. Translated 1978, Economy and Society.

73 Weber, Max. 1956b. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft 4th edn. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr. Chapter 5, ‘Typen religiöser Vergemeinschaftung (Religionssoziologie)’, 245-381 [referred to as Sociology of Religion].

74 Weber, Max. 1958. Gesammelte Politische Schriften. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr.

75 Weber, Max. 1968. Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Wissenschaftslehre. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr.

76 Weber, Max. 1972. Die Protestantische Ethik. II. Kritiken und Antikritiken, ed. Johannes Winckelmann. Hamburg: Siebenstern.

77 Weber, Max. 1976. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. London: Allen & Unwin.

78 Weber, Max. 1978. Economy and Society, ed. and trans. G. Roth and C. Wittich. Berkeley: University of California.

79 Weber, Max. 1989. Die Wirtschaftsethik der Weltreligionen Konfuzianismus und Taoismus: Schriften 1915–20. Edited with an introduction by Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer and Petra Kolonko. Max Weber Gesamtausgabe 19/1. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr.

80 Weber, Max. 2003. Ru Jiao Yu Dao Jiao (Confucianism and Daoism), trans. Wang Rongfen. The Commercial Press.

81 Weber, Max. 2012. Collected Methodological Writings, trans. and ed. H.H. Bruun and Sam Whimster. London and New York: Routledge.

82 Whimster, Sam, and Scott Lash, eds. 1987. Max Weber, Rationality and Modernity. London: Allen & Unwin.

83 Winckelmann, Johannes, ed. 1972. Die Protestantische Ethik. II. Kritiken und Antikritiken. Hamburg: Siebenstern.

84 Worcester, Thomas, ed. 2008. The Cambridge Companion to the Jesuits. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

85 Ye Ren Chang. 2003. ‘Dong Ya Jing Ji Lun Li De Cheng Qing Yu Bian Si: Weber, Ru Jia Yu Ji Du Xin Jiao’ (‘Clarification and Thoughts on East Asia’s Economic Ethics: Weber, Confucianism and Protestantism’). Solitudo, 3. Taipei.

86 Yu Shou. 2014. ‘Universal Dream, National Dreams and Symbiotic Dream: Reflections on Transcultural Generativity in China-Europe Encounters’. Journal of China in Comparative Perspective 1.1: 37-59.

87 Yu Yingshi. 1987. Zhong Guo Jin Shi Zong Jiao Lun Li Yu Shang Re Jing Shen (Religious Ethics and Entrepreneurial Spirit in China’s Modern Times). Taipei: Taiwai Lian Jing Press.

88 Zhang Xiping. 2009. Ou Zhou Zao Qi Han Xue Shi (A History of Early Sinology in Europe). Beijing: Publishing House of China.

Share


Export Citation