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date: 20 October 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter develops the argument that China is a civilizational state and follows a trajectory different from that of the Western nation-state. Weber is correct in selecting features of Chinese culture and social and political structure that stand in contrast to Western forms of rationalization: the role of magic, the particularism of guilds, the absence of the Western polis and Roman law, and the universalism demanded of Christianity in contrast to the religions of southeast Asia. Following Sheldon Pollock’s The Language of the Gods in the World of Men, the nature of language itself differentiates Latin in the West, Sanskrit in south and southeast Asia, and Chinese analogical language in China. Language, or langue-pensée, has a determining effect on stratification and configurations of power, especially in the development of the vernacularization of language as a precondition for the nation-state. China, in contrast to India and the West, resisted vernacularization. It is as if the West had kept to the Latin of the Holy Roman Empire. The nature of Chinese language therefore is intrinsic to the civilization and imperial state in China to this day.

Keywords: magic, guild, Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, literati, mandarin, Sanskrit, langue-pensée, vernacularization

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