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Religion and Charity
The Social Life of Goodness in Chinese Societies

$110.00 (C)

  • Date Published: October 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108418676

$ 110.00 (C)

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About the Authors
  • Free markets alone do not work effectively to solve certain kinds of human problems, such as education, old age care, or disaster relief. Nor have markets ever been the sole solution to the psychological challenges of death, suffering, or injustice. Instead, we find a major role for the non-market institutions of society - the family, the state, and social institutions. The first in-depth anthropological study of charities in contemporary Chinese societies, this book focuses on the unique ways that religious groups have helped to solve the problems of social well-being. Using comparative case studies in China, Taiwan and Malaysia during the 1980s and onwards, it identifies new forms of religious philanthropy as well as new ideas of social 'good', including different forms of political merit-making, new forms of civic selfhood, and the rise of innovative social forms, including increased leadership by women. The book finally argues that the spread of these ideas is an incomplete process, with many alternative notions of goodness continuing to be influential.

    • The first in-depth anthropological study of charities in contemporary Chinese societies
    • Identifies new forms of religious philanthropy and new ideas of 'goodness' in Chinese societies
    • Places Chinese case-studies in a broad theoretical context and introduces new analytical concepts
    • Takes a cross-national and cross-religious approach of the topic
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    'It will provide the roadmap for innovative anthropological theory on the subject of engaged religions in East Asian societies and encourage further research into religious voluntarism and what Joel Robbins calls ‘the anthropology of the good'.' Dat Manh Nguyen, (

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2017
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108418676
    • length: 246 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 157 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.49kg
    • contains: 10 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Engaged religions and the social life of goodness
    2. Legacies and discontinuities in China, Taiwan and Malaysia
    3. Political merit-making: religious philanthropy and the state
    4. A (Chinese) good person
    5. Gifts, groups, and goodness
    6. Innovating the good
    7. Alternative goodness
    8. Conclusion: the unlimited good in context.

  • Authors

    Robert P. Weller, Boston University
    Robert Weller is Professor of Anthropology and Research Associate at the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs at Boston University.

    C. Julia Huang, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan
    C. Julia Huang is Professor of Anthropology at National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan.

    Keping Wu, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangdong
    Keping Wu is Associate Professor of Anthropology in Sun Yat-sen University, Guangdong.

    Lizhu Fan, Fudan University, Shanghai
    Lizhu Fan is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Globalization and Religious Studies program at Fudan University, Shanghai.

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