On the Fall of the Patrimonial Bureaucracy in the Imperial China: A Weberian Imaginary Experiment of Confucianism

Monday, 16 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Po-Fang TSAI, Taipei Medical University, Taiwan
Max Weber’s theoretical concept of traditional Chinese society, “patrimonial bureaucracy”, is a mixed model of irrational and rational types of domination, since it contains elements of both patrimonialism and bureaucracy. Although many scholars debating on the applicability of Weberian concept, there have been relatively few research focusing on the collapse of patrimonial bureaucracy during the transformation from the imperial to modern China. Weber left no words on the China revolution in 1911 as he did on the Russian revolutions in 1905. However, it does not prevent us from establishing a Weberian imaginary experiment in which the question how and why the patrimonial bureaucracy and its cultural root, Confucianism, vanished could be scrutinized. This paper attempts to investigate the complicated ways by which the Confucian literati and local gentry mediated the legal disputes among the religious pluralism—Catholicism, Protestantism, Confucianism, Chinese Buddhism, Daoism—from the late Qing dynasty to the early Republician period. During the conflict events between different religious groups, the Confucian group went through a self-transformation in terms of both legal and cultural ways: a shift from Confucianism as a religion in order to manage all the religious affairs to Confucianism as a culture withdrawing from the religious discursive field. This crucial shift not only constituted an influential impact on the patrimonial bureaucracy, but also jeopardized the social reproduction of the Confucian literati. To sum up, this paper revisits Weber’s theoretical concept of patrimonial bureaucracy with its historical case of Confucianism reform, and establishes a Weberian analysis from religious, legal, and cultural dimensions.