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The notion of ethnicity as it is currently used is theoretically ambivalent, confusing, indeed self-contradictory, according to Rey Chow. To radically reconceptualize the ways ethnicity functions in capitalist society, Chow proposes that it be analyzed in conjunction with Max Weber's famous theory about the protestant work ethic, especially in terms of the economic and psychological, as well as the religious-spiritual, ramifications of the word "protest." In her reading of the politics of ethnicity, she examines a diverse set of texts, works of Foucault, Weber, Derrida, Balibar, Brontë, Asian-American authors Hongo and Yau; films of Hitchcock, Duras, and Resnais; and the drawings of Hong Kong cartoonist Larry Feign.
The Protestant ethic — a moral code stressing hard work, rigorous self-discipline, and the organization of one's life in the service of God — was made famous by sociologist and political economist Max Weber. In this brilliant study (his best-known and most controversial), he opposes the Marxist concept of dialectical materialism and its view that change takes place through "the struggle of opposites." Instead, he relates the rise of a capitalist economy to the Puritan determination to work out anxiety over salvation or damnation by performing good deeds — an effort that ultimately discouraged belief in predestination and encouraged capitalism. Weber's classic study has long been required reading in college and advanced high school social studies classrooms.
In Jews, Confucians, and Protestants: Cultural Capital and the End of Multiculturalism, Lawrence E. Harrison takes the politically incorrect stand that not all cultures are created equally. Analyzing the performance of 117 countries, grouped by predominant religion, Harrison argues for the superiority of those cultures that emphasize Jewish, Confucian, or Protestant values.
Although the era of European colonialism has long passed, misgivings about the inequality of the encounters between European and non-European languages persist in many parts of the postcolonial world. This unfinished state of affairs, this lingering historical experience of being caught among unequal languages, is the subject of Rey Chow's book. A diverse group of personae, never before assembled in a similar manner, make their appearances in the various chapters: the young mulatto happening upon a photograph about skin color in a popular magazine; the man from Martinique hearing himself named "Negro" in public in France; call center agents in India trained to Americanize their accents while speaking with customers; the Algerian Jewish philosopher reflecting on his relation to the French language; African intellectuals debating the pros and cons of using English for purposes of creative writing; the translator acting by turns as a traitor and as a mourner in the course of cross-cultural exchange; Cantonese-speaking writers of Chinese contemplating the politics of food consumption; radio drama workers straddling the forms of traditional storytelling and mediatized sound broadcast. In these riveting scenes of speaking and writing imbricated with race, pigmentation, and class demarcations, Chow suggests, postcolonial languaging becomes, de facto, an order of biopolitics. The native speaker, the fulcrum figure often accorded a transcendent status, is realigned here as the repository of illusory linguistic origins and unities. By inserting British and post-British Hong Kong (the city where she grew up) into the languaging controversies that tend to be pursued in Francophone (and occasionally Anglophone) deliberations, and by sketching the fraught situations faced by those coping with the specifics of using Chinese while negotiating with English, Chow not only redefines the geopolitical boundaries of postcolonial inquiry but also demonstrates how such inquiry must articulate historical experience to the habits, practices, affects, and imaginaries based in sounds and scripts.
Max Weber (1864-1920) was one of the most prolific and influential sociologists of the twentieth century. This classic collection draws together his key papers. This edition contains a new preface by Professor Bryan S. Turner.
...a major work for our times. --Irving Kristol, The Public Interest

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