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Professor Jack Barbalet, Sociology Department, Hong Kong Baptist University.
The paper examines the concept of self-interest by considering its operation in a context in which it is widely held that self-interest has no place. China is often described as having a collectivist culture characterized by self-abnegation. But Chinese intellectual traditions include a premise of self-interest and many practices demonstrate its application. Indeed, Chinese sociological discussion affirms the centrality of the self and self-interest in traditional thought and practice. Confucian antipathy to selfishness is shown to relate to admonishment of satisfaction of the interests of present selves against those of past selves. The variable institutional selection of distinct temporal phases of self is core to understanding particular configurations of self-interest, and incidentally, major differences between Confucianism and Daoism in their respective conceptions of self-interest.
Jack Barbalet is Professor of Sociology and Head of the Sociology Department at Hong Kong Baptist University and Adjunct Professor in the Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney. He was previously Professorial Fellow in the Centre for Citizenship and Public Policy at UWS. His research interests include sociological theory, economic sociology and the sociology of markets and enterprise in greater China. Recent publications include ‘Market Relations as Wuwei: Daoist Concepts in Analysis of China’s Post-1978 Market Economy’. Asian Studies Review. 2011. 35(3): 335-354 and ‘Chinese Religion, Market Society and the State’ in Religion and the State: A Comparative Sociology, edited by Jack Barbalet, Adam Possamai and Bryan Turner. London: Anthem Press, 2011. His currently research is directed to theoretical apprehensions of absence, imminence and latency in social relations.