Self-interest in Chinese discourse and practice: Temporal distinctions of self

Jack Barbalet*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


A concept of self-interest, through which different interests relate to distinct temporal phases of selves, is examined by considering the operation of self-interest in a context in which it is frequently held to be absent. Chinese culture, frequently described as collectivist, developed intellectual traditions in which self-interest is assumed. Chinese sociologists affirm the centrality of self-interest for understanding social relationships and practices. Confucian antipathy to selfishness relates to admonishment of satisfaction of the interests of present selves against those of past selves. Variable institutional selection of distinct temporal phases of self is core to understanding major differences between Confucianism and Daoism and their respective conceptions of self-interest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-666
Number of pages18
JournalSociological Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Confucianism
  • Daoism
  • Fei Xiaotong
  • Institutional selection
  • Relational self


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