Employee Profile

Tong Zhang

Assistant Professor - Department of Finance


I work on interpretivism, an alternative social science paradigm to the prevailing functionalist/materialist one. First proposed by Max Weber (1905) in The Protestant Ethic, interpretivism claims that social science is fundamentally different from natural science because human society is functionally indeterminant, and causal explanation in social science can only be achieved through the interpretive understanding of the subjective meaning of life, or worldviews.

For a complete list of my research, see my personal webpage or ResearchGate page.


Zhang, Tong (2022)

The Logic of Wasteful Production

Journal of Economics, Theology and Religion, 2(2)

Economic neoliberalism promises social efficiency with self-interested participants and free competition. This doctrine is challenged by the extensive production of wasteful goods and services in the contemporary West. By studying three types of wasteful production—conspicuous goods, conspicuous profession, and information overproduction— this article argues that the cause of wasteful production is nothing but the producers’ profit motive. The discussion of wasteful production provides a first attempt to extend Max Weber’s interpretivist sociology to the study of Nietzscheism, an ideal-type worldview preaching self-realization and power struggle. It adds novel empirical and theoretical support to the Weber thesis by showing that ascetic Protestantism facilitates productive efficiency by reducing not only hedonistic idleness and laziness, but also egoistic power-seeking and the induced wasteful production.

Zhang, Tong (2022)

Reinterpreting Science as a Vocation

Max Weber Studies, 22(1), s. 55- 73. Doi: 10.15543/maxweberstudies.22.1.55

Weber’s “science as a vocation” has often been viewed as a therapeutic concept with no functional significance in the fully bureaucratized and professionalized modern science. However, development in the philosophy of science in the last century, especially the Kuhnian thesis of the discontinuity of scientific progress and the Duhem-Quine thesis of underdetermination, shows that Weber’s distinction between science as a vocation and science as a profession (career) can potentially answer one of the oldest questions in science studies: What makes scientific breakthroughs possible?

Zhang, Tong (2022)

Critical Realism: A Critical Evaluation

Social Epistemology Doi: 10.1080/02691728.2022.2080127 - Full text in research archive

Critical realism, championed by its proponents as the most promising post-positivist social science paradigm, has gained significant influence in the last few decades. This paper provides a critical evaluation of the critical realism movement in the hope of facilitating more fruitful dialogues between its proponents and rivalling schools of sociologists. Two concerns are raised about contemporary critical realism. First, critical realism is not the only philosophical school against positivism and not necessarily the best. Second, critical realists exaggerate the importance of critical realism to social science and conflate philosophy of science with sociological theories.

Zhang, Tong (2021)

Was Weber Really Wrong? A Comment on Some Recent Empirical Studies on Economic Growth

Max Weber Studies, 21(2), s. 203- 212. Doi: 10.15543/maxweberstudies.21.2.203

In the last two decades, there have been two influential papers in empirical economic growth, Becker and Woessmann (2009) and Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson (2001), which explicitly or implicitly claim that Weber's thesis has been refuted by empirical evidence. This paper argues that their alleged refutation of Weber is achieved by serious distortions and reductions of Weber's thesis combined with a sequence of unsubstantiated extrapolations.

Academic Degrees
Year Academic Department Degree
2019 University of Zurich PhD
Work Experience
Year Employer Job Title
2019 - Present BI Norwegian Business School Assistant professor