"Redefining Weber's Protestant Ethic in China: from Persecuted and Poor to Patriotic, Pious, and Prosperous Citizens”

Thursday, Apr 27, 2017
by dsuchens

The Contemporary China Graduate Colloquium will be meeting tomorrow, 4/27, in Wallace 366 at 6 PM. Our speaker this week will be Grace Tien, Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Sociology. As always, dinner will be served.

"Redefining Weber's Protestant Ethic in China: from Persecuted and Poor to Patriotic, Pious, and Prosperous Citizens”


Abstract:
"In the last several years, the Chinese Communist Party has repudiated the infiltration of Western ideological, and particularly, religious influences into the country. At the same time, the number of Chinese Christians, notably Chinese Protestants (CPs), continues to exponentially increase over the last decade up to the present, with estimates close to 60 million counting both state-sanctioned and house churches. While Western scholars, media, and NGOs have tended to portray CPs as an oppressed and persecuted population, I argue that the narratives shared by CPs in interviews as well as their public behavior increasingly suggest an active redefining of their role and place in contemporary Chinese society as patriotic, pious, productive, and prosperous citizens in light of China’s systemic corruption and moral decline, perceived by both citizens and leaders to be principal problems crippling China. In their narratives, CPs often draw on Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic, the concept of “calling,” and their own religious and moral beliefs as justificatory and explanatory narratives, legitimating their role and place to the CCP as upright citizens who further the economic prosperity and social welfare of their country. I identify five common themes that emerged from ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews: 1) the role of prayer in resolving workplace politics and pressures 2) ambivalence and unease felt by CPs over what they perceived to be ambiguous “ethical grey zones.” 3) personal accounts of spiritual and/or moral failures and challenges 4) personal accounts of “success” in the workplace (i.e. creatively resolving ethical dilemmas) and 5) Emphasis on building and maintaining trust, honesty, and integrity for long-term success."

CCC at Princeton University