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The Protestant Ethnic and the Spirit of Capitalism
     

The Protestant Ethnic and the Spirit of Capitalism

by Rey Chow
 

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In late-capitalist Western society, cross-ethnic cultural transactions are an inevitable daily routine. Yet, according to acclaimed cultural critic Rey Chow, the notion of ethnicity as it is currently used is theoretically ambivalent, confusing, indeed self-contradictory, straddling as it does an uneasy boundary between a universalist rhetoric of inclusion on the one

Overview

In late-capitalist Western society, cross-ethnic cultural transactions are an inevitable daily routine. Yet, according to acclaimed cultural critic Rey Chow, the notion of ethnicity as it is currently used is theoretically ambivalent, confusing, indeed self-contradictory, straddling as it does an uneasy boundary between a universalist rhetoric of inclusion on the one hand, and actual, lived experiences of violence and intolerance on the other. To drastically reconceptualize ethnicity in the contemporary world, Chow proposes that it be examined in conjunction with Max Weber's famous theory about the Protestant work ethic and capitalism, which holds that secular belief in salvation often collaborates effectively with the interpellation, disciplining, and rewarding of subjects constituted by specific forms of labor. The charged figure that results from such a collaboration, resonant with the economic, psychological, and spiritual implications of the word "protest, " is what she refers to as the protestant ethnic.

Chow explores the vicissitudes of cross-ethnic representational politics in a diverse range of texts across multiple genres, including the writings of Georg Lukacs, Michel Foucault, Max Weber, Jacques Derrida, Fredric Jameson, Etienne Balibar, Charlotte Brontë, Garrett Hongo, John Yau, and Frantz Fanon; the films of Alfred Hitchcock, Marguerite Duras, and Alain Resnais; and the cartoon drawings of Larry Feign. Tracing out hauntingly familiar scenarios from stereotyping and coercive mimeticism to collective narcissistic abjection, the rise of white feminist racial power, and intraethnic ressentiment, Chow articulates a series of interlocking critical dialogues that challenge readers into hitherto unimagined ways of thinking about an urgent topic.

Editorial Reviews

International Migration Review - Susan R. Takata
Chow's discussion of the concept of 'ethnicity' in a late-capitalist Western society presents a creatively refreshing perspective on the contradictions and conflicts of this taken-for-granted concept. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism... should challenge others who have long studied race and ethnic relations.

Ethnic and Racial Studies - David Parker
Chow's critical vigilance results in a welcome and acute exposure of the invidious endorsements of racism that can characterize contemporary multiculturalism: tolerance, demeaning inclusion and tokenistic recognition... the book... illuminate[s] and enliven[s] ongoing debates.

Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews - Eric Hayot
There is nothing consolatory...one is faced simply with the imperative to think harder and better about the problems that face back from the surface of the world.

International Migration Review
Chow's discussion of the concept of 'ethnicity' in a late-capitalist Western society presents a creatively refreshing perspective on the contradictions and conflicts of this taken-for-granted concept. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism... should challenge others who have long studied race and ethnic relations.

— Susan R. Takata

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Chow's critical vigilance results in a welcome and acute exposure of the invidious endorsements of racism that can characterize contemporary multiculturalism: tolerance, demeaning inclusion and tokenistic recognition... the book... illuminate[s] and enliven[s] ongoing debates.

— David Parker

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231504485
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
12/06/2002
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
File size:
19 MB
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What People are Saying About This

Dorothy Ko
This book makes me laugh, cry, and think harder than any other. Never an inscrutable Chinese, far more than a protestant ethnic, and always ruthlessly honest, Rey Chow deserves a gold star for taking on the sacred cows of our academic and public lives. This disarming book should be read by all who are concerned with the future of human rights, liberalism, multiculturalism, identity politics, and feminism.

Fredric Jameson
In this wide-ranging, theoretically rich, and provocative book, Rey Chow completely restructures the problem of ethnicity; all future discussions and debates will have to come to terms with it.

Meet the Author

Rey Chow is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities at Brown University. She is the author of many books, including Primitive Passions, which dealt with contemporary Chinese cinema and won the James Russell Lowell Prize, the most prestigious book award given by the Modern Language Association. She lives in Providence, RI.

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