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Chiang, "Confucianism and economic development: An explanation to the Taiwan experience," 1990

USC Dissertation in Economics.
August 26, 2009

Min-Hsiu Chiang, Ph.D.

Abstract (Summary)
Max Weber in his classic The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1958) indicated that the combination of 'this worldliness' and 'asceticism' in the Protestant ethic is the "engine" for the emergence of modern capitalism in the West. In his book The Religion of China (1964), he suggested that the absence of the combination of these two variables accounts primarily for the absence of the spirit of capitalism and economic development. Weber charged that Confucianism is the major determinant of the failure of China's economic development.

This dissertation is an attempt to address this issue by first posing the question: are 'this-worldliness' and 'asceticism' absent in Confucianism? After an examination, the writer finds asceticism and 'moral tension' attitudes of 'this-worldliness' are existent in Confucianism. Therefore, Weber's hypothesis that Confucianism has a negative effect on economic development appears invalid.

Then, the study turns to an alternative paradigm--the Confucian economic ethic from both micro and macro perspectives. After exploring the Confucian economic ethic, a practical review of the Taiwan experience--growth with equity, and how Confucianism has affected the Taiwan experience is conducted. Based on the above discussions, the transferability of the Taiwan miracle to other non-Confucian countries is examined. At the same time, a theory of creative transformation is employed to explain this issue.

Finally, according to the Tao of Chung Yung and Tai Chi, this study proposes a tentative synthesized model of economic development to incorporate two competing schools, namely the culturalist and the structuralist, both of which in fact are complementary and supplementary toward each other, just like the Yin-Yang relationship. If this effort succeeds, such an integrated and holistic approach to economic development could help both academics and practitioners in the field of development and modernization to have a broader, wider, and deeper perspective as they weight policy alternatives. (Copies available exclusively from Micrographics Department, Doheny Library, USC, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0182.)

Advisor: Clayton, Ross