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The pride of the "Cotton-Clad": a crosscultural examination of individualism and human dignity

Max Weber attributes the rise of modern Western society to Puritanism, noting that the Calvinist Protestant found, in his lonely attempt to communicate directly with God, a sense of human dignity and individualism in agreement with the rational structure of democracy. Weber, however, asserts that Confucianism lacks the Protestant way of thinking and hence cannot help with the rise of a modern Chinese society. This essay finds illustrations of Weber’s theory about the West in European civilian intellectuals who confronted authority with dignity, leading to the contemporary tradition of Western intellectuals “as the author of a language that tries to speak truth to power.” It also challenges Weber’s fallacy about China through a study of the varied attitudes of the individual vs. the state in Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, in the formation of a convention known as “the Pride of the Cotton-Clad,” which may play a role in building a state governed by law and justice and a society that respects all its citizens.

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