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A question concerning subject in The Spirit of Chinese Capitalism

Qi Xu (Nottingham University Business School, Nottingham, UK)

Critical Perspectives on International Business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Article publication date: 2 May 2008




Recognising interest in the nascent “rise of China”, the purpose of this paper is to engage with the normative social science approach to comparative management, positing that it is inadequate for an enlightened view of the Chinese subject.


This paper presents a critical appraisal of extant literature, specifically Redding's The Spirit of Chinese Capitalism, by drawing resources from Fabian's epistemological critique of anthropology and Levinas' ethics to replace ontology as first philosophy, and by reference to historical studies on China's economic culture and its language.


Attention is drawn to how Redding's research subject is made an object of knowledge. In the objectification process, the subject's continuity is interrupted, its voice deprived, and its capacity for dialogue denied. This is evident in Redding's framework for analysis. Indeed, his Weberian social science template manifests a certain “imperialism of the same” and is symptomatic of much in comparative management regarding non‐western subjects. After critique, this essay then explores a supplement to Redding.

Practical implications

The paper proposes three principles for finding one's way out of objectification: ethics before “knowledge”, justice before “power”, and dialogue before “vision”.


The paper contributes to discourse on how comparative management must transcend its imperial social science legacy before it can find a just footing, and be born again.



Xu, Q. (2008), "A question concerning subject in The Spirit of Chinese Capitalism", Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 4 No. 2/3, pp. 242-276.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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