Univerza v Ljubljani Filozofska fakulteta
Aškerčeva 2, 1000 Ljubljana
Duration: July 2014 – July 2017
Funder: ARRS (Slovenian Research Agency)
Type: Basic project
Project leader: 13009, Jana Rošker
Research group: Sociological Research and Cultural Studies
Contact person: Darinka Bartol, firstname.lastname@example.org , 01 241 10 86
Primary research field: 6. Humanities, 6.06 Cultural Studies
Main research organization: Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana
Collaborating research organizations: Research Centre, University of Primorska
Keywords: Modern Confucianism, East Asian thought, East Asian cultures, Modernization, Cultural impacts
In the 21st century, East Asian societies are redrawing the map of progress: the center of economic, if not political, power is shifting from the Euro American to the Asian region. This shift confronts us with many problems, related to transformations of material and ideal paradigms that not only define the development of Asian societies as such, but also strongly influence international relations on a global level. Strategic solutions for these problems need to consider broader perspectives in the context of particular cultural backgrounds. Such perspectives are not limited to economic and ecological issues, but include political and social functions of ideologies and culturally conditioned values, representing the axial epistemological grounds which the most characteristic and enduring institutions of these societies rest upon.
One of the recent and central theoretical concerns in China (and, in fact, in the entire East Asian region) is related to various developmental trends of the Confucian revival which form the main research subject of the proposed project. This intellectual revival belongs to the most important reversals in modern Chinese history and manifests itself in the philosophical stream of the Modern Confucianism, one of the most significant currents that form new Chinese ideologies of modernization. This stream of thought mainly developed during the 20th century in Taiwan and Hong Kong, but also gained a widespread popularity in most of the other East Asian societies that were traditionally influenced by Confucian thought, as for example Japan and South Korea.
In the early 1980s, Modern Confucianism also began to reappear in the P.R. China as one of the most important ideological concerns. This phenomenon is very much worth examining for what it can tell us about our times – and as one of the most important philosophical legacies in the contemporary globalized societies.
The current is defined by a search for synthesis between Western and traditional Chinese thought, aiming to elaborate a system of ideas and values, suitable to resolve social and political problems of the modern, globalized world. Thus, the central research questions of the proposed project are not only focused upon the main Modern Confucian philosophical approaches, ideas and methods. The project also aims to illuminate the political, social and ideological backgrounds of the so called Confucian revival on one hand, and its inherent connection to the theoretical foundations of Chinese modernity on the other.
Based upon Weber’s argument that the Protestant ethic was extremely useful in promoting the rise and the spread of modernization, it is worth trying to critically examine the so called Post Confucian hypothesis, which has emerged in China during the last decades, and according to which societies based upon the Confucian ethic may in many ways be superior to the West in the pursuit of industrialization, affluence and modernization. Weber also wrote extensively on China, concluding that its traditions were deeply uncongenial to modernization. In order to clarify the question whether such a Eurocentric perspective of modernity is still valid or not, this project aims to investigate the above mentioned presuppositions, following the hypothesis, according to which modernization represents a complex process of social transitions which includes both universal and culturally conditioned elements.
Thus, it is also important to analyze the question whether such an East Asian model is really on its way to generate a non individualistic (communitarian) version of modernity. The verification of this hypothesis could namely prove that the universally presupposed relation between modernity and individualism which has previously been seen by international modernization theories as “ inevitable” or “ internal” was, in fact, nothing more than an outcome of specific Western historical paradigms.
An important consequence of the present trans nationalization of capitals may be that, for the first time in history, the modern mode of production appears as an authentically global form, separated from its historically specific origins in Europe. Hence, the narrative of capitalism is no longer a narrative of the history of Europe. For the first time, non European capitalist societies are making their own claims for the history of modernization. Due to the fact that, in Western theory, only a little is known about Chinese streams of thought which treat these problems, the proposed project will investigate the Modern Confucian modernization theory, focusing on its interpolation in the methodological and theoretical framework of global contemporary discourses on modernization. The works written by the adherents of the Modern Confucian current, which represent the main primary material of the proposed research, reflect the special relationship that has been mainly elaborated in the specific circumstances of modern Chinese societies (PR China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore), namely the relation between the new Confucian cultures and the rapid emergence of a super industrial economy. The research project aims to clarify the above mentioned relationship through the lens of the presupposed cultural determination of modernization processes.
The members of the project team will analyze the principle works of the leading theoreticians of the new Modern Confucianism who attempted to reconcile “ Western” and “ traditional Chinese” values, in order to create a theoretical model of modernization that would not be confused or equated with “ Westernization” . Given that Modern Confucians viewed modernization primarily as a rationalization of the world, they explored their own tradition for authentic concepts comparable to the two Western paradigms essential for modernization, i.e. the concepts of subjectivity, and of reason and rationality. Taking this as its point of departure, the project members will investigate the central values of Confucianism, and interpret them in Chinese and Taiwanese, two differing sociopolitical contexts, in order to evaluate their impact upon prevailing contemporary ideologies. Among other issues, the project will also examine the axiological differences within modern East Asian societies, and focus on Modern Confucian treatments of epistemological and ethical concepts that can serve as a foundation for a “ Chinese” modernization theory. Of particular importance in this regard are the notions of moral self, unlimited heart mind and intellectual intuition. On this basis, the research will thus provide a systematic and coherent examination of the contents, axiological innovations and social significance of Modern Confucianism.
The researchers will also examine the main elements that enable the amalgamation of traditional Chinese values into the framework of (post)capitalistic ideologies and axiological contexts. The new value systems developed by the Modern Confucian movement are designed to ensure economic efficiency while also preserving political stability. The social order was historically dominated by state doctrines which focused on hierarchical and formalistic social structures. The current demand for the coexistence of social stability (assumed to be possible only within a capitalist mode of production), with the “ democratization” of society, is inherently paradoxical. In the proposed study, this ambivalence is contextualized within a set of issues related to the economic and cultural transition, which are determined by diverse social phenomena emerging from the (mostly artificially constructed) gap between “ tradition” and “ modernity” . When evaluating the Modern Confucian attempts of establishing a Chinese philosophical base for modernization, we need to evaluate them within the context of questions linked to ‘invented traditions’ (Hobsbawm & Ranger 1995). We need to consider to what extent the philosophical ‘traditions’ are based upon historic assumptions, and to what extent they are merely produced due to the (ideological and political) demands of the current period.
The proposed project will follow the above mentioned hypothesis about the cultural conditionality of modernization. This hypothesis will be investigated through the lens of the Confucian revival that manifests itself in the work of Modern Confucians, who have tried to reveal a part of their reservoir of values and knowledge, which can undoubtedly enrich our assumptions as regards the differences in traditions and modernities. However, we should not forget the fact that we live in a period which is not defined merely by attempts to revive various traditions, but also by attempts to harmonize them with the needs of the dominating economic, political and axiological structures found in the globalizing world. The affirmation of modernity as a palette of living styles and clashing values forms an unquestionable assumption of almost all modern Confucian discourses.
While the Maoist historiography relegated Confucianism to the past, most of the Western modernization theories also implied the necessity of abandoning Confucianism if China were ever to develop dynamic modern societies. Marx and other classical theorists of modernity assumed the imperviousness of traditional Chinese culture to modernization. Based upon Max Weber’s argument that the Protestant ethic was extremely useful in promoting the rise and the spread of modernization, it is worth trying to critically examine the notion that has gradually emerged in the last two decades in East Asia, that societies based on the Confucian ethic may in many ways be superior to the West in the pursuit of industrialization, affluence and modernization. Weber also wrote extensively on China and India, concluding that Asian cultural and philosophical or religious traditions were deeply uncongenial to modernization. This supposition must be also further investigated in order to examine if such a Western centred perspective on modernity is still valid.
A basic premise of the study is that Western epistemology represents only one of many different models of human comprehension. The research will thus follow the main methodological principles of intercultural research, taking into account the incommensurability of diversely (culturally) conditioned paradigms, or theoretical frameworks deriving from diversely formed discourses of different cultural and linguistic environments. The methods applied seek to synthesize perspectives, knowledge, skills, and epistemologies, in order to facilitate the study of a topic which, while intrinsically coherent, cannot be adequately understood from a single perspective. Within the broader scope of intercultural humanities, the project will thus be structured in an interdisciplinary fashion, and will comprise methods and forms of investigation pertaining to the following research areas:
These areas will be investigated by experts of Sinology (and partly of Japanese studies), specialized in the areas of postcolonial studies, history, sociology and philosophy.
Since the research will raise the question about differences in values within the modern Chinese societies, the planned results will be pointing to occupational, class and state appropriations of Confucian values, as well as to the differential impact of Confucian values on different generations and genders. The research will enable us to introduce the most relevant Modern Confucian contributions to contemporary global theory to a wider academic public in the Western world. In spite of the fact that there has been a large amount of books and articles on this topic published in Asia, there is namely still a considerable lack of respective academic results in Western languages. Since Modern Confucian efforts to revitalize and reconstruct traditional Confucian thought can be seen as an attempt to counter the dominant ideological trends and preserve Asian cultural identity, the project will also contribute to the development of theoretical dialogues between Asia and Europe.
The above stated basic approaches of the project are rooted in the presumption according to which the differences between the now and the past are to be sought in the fact that the classical modernization model on the global level led to the situation in which the problems it brings are no longer merely problems of the so called » non European« , but also problems of Euro American societies. Thus, the need to learn about » alternative modernities« represents a challenge also for Euro American modernization cultures, for it establishes their new borders and hence re localizes the very concept of modernity as such.
In this part of the description, we shall introduce preliminary sources and literature, essential for the research questions delineated above, and provide a short analysis of their incorporation into the main structure of our investigations.
In recent years there has been a spurt in research efforts to compare the modernization process across different countries and regions (Eisenstadt and Schluchter 1998, Wittrock 1998). Asian societies enjoyed considerable economic growth in recent years in spite of their “immature, albeit rapidly developing” (Peerenboom 2002: 12) social, political and legal systems whose nature, evolution and path of development have been poorly understood by Western scholars (Schmidt-Glintzer 1983). The project will provide a systematic analysis of basic ideologies which support these specific developments and manifest themselves in the intellectual current of the so-called Modern Confucianism.
The rich primary sources produced by the theoreticians of the main pioneers of the Confucian revival (Liang Shuming, Xiong Shili, Zhang Junmai, Feng Youlan, He Lin, Fang Dongmei (Thomé Fang), Tang Junyi, Xu Fuguang, Mou Zongsan) and the still living members of the so-called 3rd (Cheng Chong-Ying, Liu Hsu-hsien, Tu Weiming and Yu Yingshi) as well as the 4th (Lee Ming-huei, Yang Zuhan, Lin Guoxiong etc) generation of Modern Confucianism are basically focused upon different levels, aspects and dimensions of the same question: What is the relationship between Confucianism and the successful modernization of East Asian societies over the last three decades? The project aims to critically examine their basic attitude toward the question of development that pervades their discussion, since it is mostly still rooted in the identification of modernity with capitalism, which has been a longstanding premise of the universal modernization theory. This issue is of special importance given the fact that the project is based upon the presumption of the cultural relativity of the concept of modernity, as has been elaborated by Peter Berger (1988), Fred Dallmayr (1993), Tu Weiming (2000), Norton Wheeler (2005) and others.
The results of the research that has been carried out during the last two decades (Bresciani 2001, Bunnin 2002, Cheng 1991, Fang Keli 1989, 1997, Geist 1996, Hua Shiping 2001, ali 1995, Li Ming-huei 1991, Tu Weiming 1996, Yang Zuhan 1994 etc) clearly show that Modern Confucianism functions as a major source of social values in China and that it assumes especial significance amidst the proliferation of instrumental rationality in modern East Asian societies. By analyzing the reasons, functions and basic paradigms of its axiology, the proposed project aims to promote a significant advance in furthering our understanding of contemporary China.
The existing research data on dominant cognitive patterns in various East Asian countries and regions (e.g. Maruyama 1974, Wajima 1988, Koyasu 1998, Kurozumi and Ooms 1994, Yamashita 1994, Choe 2000, Kim 2007) will be used to suggest how definitions of modern life are affected by cultural patterns. In this context, the project research will also critically examine the relevant works on the “Confucian” features of East Asian modernization that were published in the eighties of the previous century by Herman Kahn, Peter Berger, Roderick MacFarquhar, Kent Calder, Michio Morishima, William Ouchi, Ezra Vogel, Fang Keli, Li Minghui, Tu Weiming, Cheng Chung-ying and others.
The project follows a presumption that has been widely overlooked in these works, namely the presumption according to which “tradition" and "modernity", which are widely used as polar opposites in a linear theory of social change, represent “misplaced polarities in the studies of social change” (see Gusfield 1967). Thus, in the proposed research framework, the relations between the traditional and the modern will not be treated as necessarily involving displacement, conflict, or exclusiveness. The results of current research clearly show that Asian modernity does not necessarily weaken its traditions (Cui Zhiyuan 2000). Nevertheless, modern-day China has proven to be a complex region struggling to combine traditional attitudes with the political and social demands of an advanced industrialized economy. The proposed research aims to show that both tradition and modernity form the bases of ideologies and movements in which the polar opposites are converted into aspirations, but traditional forms may supply support for, as well as against, change. This presumption will be substantiated by research in the areas of postcolonial studies, history, sociology and philosophy; these research items will be carried out in the fields of contemporary Chinese, Japanese and Korean studies. The incorporation of material in native languages into the research framework will provide a more objective, and at the same time, hermeneutically more proper understanding of the complex problems we are dealing with.
The postcolonial perspective ensures the observation of Asian regions in their specific political and historical context. According to Edward Said (1995), European and American views of the “Orient” created a reality in which “the Oriental” was forced to live. One common theme that links different disciplines involved into the research project is the proposition that Orientalist discourse is not just restricted to the colonial past but latently continues even today (Chaibong 2000). Dirlik (2001), Rozman (2002) and Rošker (2008) have also pointed out that even Modern Confucianist discourses show that far from being dead, Orientalism may have emerged victorious in the age of Global capitalism. Certain parts of the Confucian revival (see for instance Tang 1991, Chen 2002, De Bary 2002, Fang 2007, Cheng 2008) are indeed including efforts to propagate a disembodied Confucianism without historical or social context, that reproduces the essentializing procedures of Orientalism, this time by the „Orientals“ themselves. (in this sense, Dirlik /2001/ speaks about the notion of “reversed Orientalism”). Thus, the project aims to highlight and substantiate present research results (e.g. Culiberg 2007) that point to the hypothesis that it is still difficult for both “Asians” and their “Others” to think about Asia in anything but Orientalist terms. In this context, it will investigate the relationship between science, colonialism, and the modern nation.
The historical research will explore the ways in which the emerging Modern Confucian theories from the beginning of the 20th century constructed knowledge about the society and culture of China and the processes through which that knowledge has shaped its past and present reality. Historical studies will also establish the cultural and institutional context in which Confucian revival took place. By combining and analyzing existing sources and literature, they will trace the main features of pre-modern Chinese traditions (Lubman 1999), the drastic Western impact on them since the 19th Century (Saje 2008), and elaborate the model of their extensive changes at the edge of the 3rd Millennium (Bloom, Williamson 1998) to provide new and important insights into the cultural embeddedness of power and explore from a comparative perspective what Confucianism was, why it declined and the reasons for its recent resurgence.
Sociological studies will challenge the notion (Vlastos 1998) that Asia's present cultural identity is the simple legacy of its pre-modern and traditional past. They aim to provide new interpretations of the dominant views on social and axiological systems in traditional and modern Asia. Based on a dual perspective (Gluck 1995) that incorporates modern “Western” capitalism into traditional agrarian societies, this segment of the project will reveal the complexity of Confucian assumptions that determine the specific social manners and customs in modern China (Fang Dongmei 1992). In this regard, the proposed project also aims to provide a typology of different social constituencies of Modern Confucianism, and the principles of classification that guide its reorganization as a cultural system, clarifying the questions (stated by Fang Keli 1997 and several other researchers) of how the Confucian revival has been shaped by the very circumstances it seeks to explain. Nevertheless, the project members are clearly aware of the fact, that it is also important to distinguish the advocacy of Confucianism as a “cure to capitalism” (Dirlik 1995: 252) because it sheds light on a different aspect of the circumstances that favored the promotion of Modern Confucianism in China. In this segment, the project members will also explore manners of flexibility and adaptability of the Confucian theory to different styles of leadership, education and organization which enabled it to maintain a coherent worldview under divergent social conditions. Therefore, these investigations will also adopt the perspective of sociology of knowledge (Li Xiangjun and Xin Yan 2006) to reflect the dynamic transformation of Confucianism into a form of knowledge suitable to the development of modern societies.
Philosophical studies will be focused upon the methods of re-discovering and re-applying traditional Asian concepts and categories into the framework of modernization theories. They will investigate the Modern Confucian re- interpretation of traditional Chinese concepts (such as仁, 性, 理etc) through the lens of the most central notions that have been in classical European discourses viewed as crucial theoretical conditions for the development of modern societies (Habermas 1986), i.e. through the concepts of humanism, subject and rationality. Among others, the proposed research aims to show how the Western concepts of rationality and science, imported to China at the edge of the 19th century, served as instruments of integration and as symbols of liberty, progress, and universal reason (Rošker 2008). In recreating the diversity of ideological discourses experienced by the Chinese during the last century, the project aims to clarify the developmental process of re-construction and re-formation of traditional value systems in the theoretical framework of Modern Confucianism. In this context, the research will follow and elaborate the results of recent theories (e.g. Hall and Ames 2003, Bresciani 2001, Bunnin 2002, Cheng Chung-ying 2003, Tu Weiming 2000, Li Minghui /Lee Ming-Huei/2001, Lin Guoxiong 2007, etc.) that have explored how and why the formation of these value systems was crucial to the emergence of the idea of »modern society«. In this research segment the researchers will not only adapt the analytical, but also hermeneutical methods of interpretation, since many of the recent research results (e.g. Pfister 1986, Billioud 2006, Rošker 2008) are rooted in the hypothesis, according to which treatments in traditional Chinese philosophical discourses should imply the application of such methods, since they seem to be more appropriate and tend to lead to more objective discoveries then the ones derived from traditional Western logocentric approaches. Hermeneutics envisions truth as a dialogical event. In this respect, we will follow Gadamer’s (1989) approach, according to which “received truth” is the linkeage of the past and the present at the moment of interpretation. There is indeed the "fusion of horizons" (Horizontverschmelzung) in interpretation, and history is "effective" (Wirkungsgeschichte) because tradition effectuates the present or the interlocutor at the moment of interpretation.
Approaching from different angles and proceeding to rational selection and critical analyses of the sources and literature described above, the investigations in separate disciplines will be systematically incorporated into the integrity of the common methodological framework.
Modern Chinese studies are not necessarily based upon philological approaches, but rather primary belong to cultural studies. They differ in several fundamental aspects of other disciplines in social sciences and humanities. These differences manifest themselves mainly on two levels:
Consequently, the project research avoids the application of the terms “West” and “East” as having the function of a categorically defined model in a strictly political or even geographically conditioned cultural specification, but rather as terms derived from the reflexive differentiation between transcendental and immanent metaphysics. Here, “West” denotes a cultural – civilizational sphere, marked by the recourses of three Abrahamitic - Semitic religions; Judaism, Islam and Christianity. When the term “West or Western” is used in a linguistic context, it refers to the Indo-European groups of languages.
The content’s bases are defined, among other things, also by the researching of functions that the Confucian renaissance has concerning the present-day Europe. It is in this context that the research team will also be confronted by the general question of the classic preconditioning of modernity. By taking into consideration the growing inflation of “Western” cultural identities, it is clear that every “Western” study in the field of Chinese studies is in its essence of comparative nature. Mainly, every intercultural research is based on cognitive reflections of the research subject, which is expressed in the relation to language and culture. Both factors, in intercultural researches, including those of China, differ considerably from the language and culture of an individual European researcher. This is why the structure of the project content is defined by presupposition, according to which we have to, when comparing different social and intellectual paradigms, treat every segment of the research as an independent phenomenon conditioned by its own culture.
Unfortunately it is still common even in modern intercultural researches that the contextual and formal criteria of the dominant methodological discourses are projected onto the treated material, even if it concerns the researching and interpreting of contents created under different conditions in the framework of differently structured socio-cultural contexts. This is why the contextual concept of the project is not based on the processes of pure objectivization, meaning the processes of evaluating the treated material by using the same criteria. After all, every individual phenomena that is used, also has, in a certain cultural concatenation, its own specific meaning, which can only be understood within the framework of the society under research and its (ethical) norms. This is true even in cases, when we encounter phenomena with coinciding external forms. For this reason, the contextual division of the project and also the connecting of different particular researches and methodological concatenations included in them, are both based on the understanding that the divisionary structure is already by itself a product of very specific historical processes and their typical way of organizing society. Even in the present scheme of the project tasks, ignoring this postulate could prove dangerous and wrong. In relentless effort to preserve the characteristic structural concatenations it aims to thoroughly consider the specific categorical legitimacy of the treated cultural circles in order to meet the demands of the most important methodological condition, on the basis of which we can, regardless of the complexity of the problems, attain some reasonably relevant realizations.
The central theoretical presumption of the proposed project will be substantiated by research in the areas of Chinese
In this framework, the project members who are experts in the abovementioned research areas will be focused upon the following aspects:
The proposed interdisciplinary approaches aim to uncover a new image of the very nature of Chinese modernity, questioning the absolute authority and putative objectivity of currently prevailing explanations. The structurally interwoven scope of different fields of content will be representative of a new image of the relationship between China’s past and present.
(Helena Motoh, Luka Culiberg, Matjaž Vidmar)
The application of intercultural methodology will enable researchers to conduct cross-cultural research without reproducing the inherent ethnocentric categories, implied in the structure of currently prevailing universalistic methodologies in humanities. The postcolonial perspective will help researchers to avoid the overestimation of interpretations and critiques solely derived from competing Western discourses rather than from the culturally diverse traditions of scholarship whose ideas they examine. Therefore, the proposed research will be attending to these culturally situated traditions of scholarship. The incorporation of material in Chinese language into the research framework will provide a more objective, and at the same time, hermeneutically more proper understanding of the treated problems. Such postcolonial frames of reference will enable the researchers to ask new questions and to gain new insights into the very structure of interpretive methodologies, outlined by the topical Chinese theoreticians. In this sense, such a method-centered approach reinterprets cross-cultural engagement and opens new opportunities for the establishment of innovative methods for the practice of cross-cultural theory. To avoid the methodology of “universal comparisons” involving different societies, the project members will thoroughly apply the basic conceptual framework of intercultural research, taking into account both, “the voices of the affected”, i.e. the Modern Confucian theoreticians on the one hand, and recent Chinese and Euro-American interpretations of this current on the other. This choice of methodology shall enable researchers to examine the dynamics of social processes and social patterns deriving from Modern Confucian ideologies and allow them to gain an adequate understanding of their current impact. Such methods will help to upgrade and to cast critical light on the existing methodological structure of understanding and interpreting Chinese society. The bases of the research consider the criticism of Orientalism as an aspect that defines and conditions the colonial discourse in the treatment of cultures that don’t have roots in the European tradition. This also includes the criticism of the latently violent conditions, visible in the classic relation between knowledge and power. Similar to the feminist criticism of Western methodological processes, this type of postcolonial criticism is also aimed at the method of understanding and mediation within the structure of the active (Western) cognitional subject and the passive (non-Western) object of comprehension. Despite the fact that China is assuming an increasingly important position on the global scale, the general, universal, globally prevailing “Western” discourse continues to employ methodological criteria, which originate from the predominant economic and political power of former colonial and the contemporary post-industrial institutions of the so-called West.
Hence, one of the central goals of the research project is the establishment of new paradigms for intercultural studies. Throughout the 20th century, the field of such studies has been one-sidedly dominated by Eurocentric, anthropocentric, individualistic, efficiency-oriented, positivistic theory and research. Conventional academic views of intercultural studies are still (at least latently) skewed by Western frames of reference. They have not represented a sample of all possible conceptual positions from which the knowledge can be adequately constructed. Thus, the proposed project is also representing an initial attempt to lay an assumptive foundation in search of particular sets of methods that could serve as a new theoretical framework for such studies. In accordance with the assumptions delineated, it will shed light on certain core assumptions of academic inquiry which suggest future directions in the study of culture and ideology in the Chinese context. In this framework, it will address possibilities and challenges of sinological scholarship in order to build and develop new models of intercultural knowledge.
(Mitja Saje, Nataša Vampelj Suhadolnik and Bart Dessein as external collaborator)
The historical part of the proposed research will challenge the difficulty of applying general (i.e. Western) research methods to Chinese history, and the dominance of Western historical thinking in historical studies which commonly prevails even in Chinese academic circles. This dominance draws academic interest to the origins and development of the specifically modern way of historical thinking. The research will be founded upon the awareness of the fact that there is a growing need for historical intercultural comparison simply and unavoidably because of the great increase in international and intercultural communication, not only in economics and politics, but also in various fields of cultural life. It aims to avoid taking the European cultural tradition of historical thinking as the basis for the theoretic inquiries of the historical conditions that defined Chinese modernization processes. Therefore the research will define conceptualizations of the theoretical grounds for comparison and explicate specific elements of historical thinking which operate in Chinese culture. Then it will analyse cultural differences in historiography as peculiar constellations of these elements. In order to develop this comparative groundwork, the research will start with some fundamental considerations about historical memory as the universal cultural means of orienting human practical life in its temporal dimensions. On this foundation it will establish a theory of historical consciousness and its constitutive factors, procedures and functions. In a systematized form the relationship of these elements can be used to identify the varieties of historical thinking in different contexts over time. This approach has as one objective an intercultural exchange of knowledge about history as a medium for identity-forming.
In this context, the historical part of the proposed research will be based upon a rejection of a commonly presumed “static essence of Chinese society and thought” and thus contribute to the development of a new historical understanding within intercultural research. It will try to clarify the relation between the main Modern Confucian theoretical approaches, ideas and methods on the one hand, and the political, social and ideological background of the time in which this current was brought into life, on the other. The historical research will emphasize the importance of examining the position of Confucian thought within the historical framework during early and recent periods of Chinese modernization and attempt to outline some of the parameters for a new understanding of the transition concept. It will also examine the historical conditions that implied the Chinese role within the recent trans-nationalization of the capital and elaborate the hypothesis, according to which for the first time in the history, the capitalist mode of production appears as an authentically global abstraction, divorced from its historically specific origins in Europe. The proposed research aims to show why and how Chinese scholars (for the first time in history) are making their own claims on the history of capitalism and the history of modernization.
By applying historical research methods, the respective project members will also examine the Modern Confucian efforts over the last two decades to appropriate capitalism for the so-called Confucian values, a reversal of a long standing conviction that Confucianism was historically an obstacle to capitalism. They will challenge the accuracy and objectivity of the previously “inevitable” or “intristic” relation between modernity and individualism aiming to show that such a view is a theoretical outcome of specific (i.e. Western) historical circumstances.
Based on such conceptual evaluation, the historical research will further explore the ways in which the emerging Modern Confucian theories from the beginning of the previous century constructed knowledge about Chinese society and culture and the processes through which that knowledge has shaped past and present reality in this area. It will provide the historical and institutional context in which Confucian revival in China took place. The researchers will trace the main features of pre-modern Chinese material and intellectual traditions, the consequences of the Western impact on them since the 19th Century and suggest a new model of extensive changes throughout Chinese society at the edge of the 3rd Millennium. In this context, the research aims to provide new and important insights into the cultural embeddedness of power and explore the Confucian revival from a comparative historical perspective.
(Nataša Visočnik, Tea Sernelj and Geir Sigurðsson, Agnes Schick - Chen as external collaborators)
The project is based on the presupposition, according to which the “actual” social relations cannot exist separately from the spatial or ideological categories. The latter are understood as culturally defined patterns of representations, which function on an individual level, as well as on the level of community and its institutions. Sociological research will thus explore the social influence of the Modern Confucian current through the optic of the ongoing Chinese engagement with Confucian humanism in which it is embedded. The research aims to define the effective social scope that is subject of this influence. It aims to provide a critical but precise evaluation of the current itself in terms of its theory and its social genesis. It aims to shed light upon the Modern Confucian central concern with the issues of modernization, and with the question about how to amalgamate Chinese tradition into various social and cultural implications of the modern era.
Since the research will be dealing with the phenomenon of Chinese modernization, it will also critically examine the classical Western modernization theories (claiming that traditional Confucian thought is basically incompatible with modernization), as well as their theoretical opponents from the field of Modern Confucianism or the adherents of the so-called Post-Confucian thesis (claiming the opposite). In conducting suchlike research on patterns of Chinese modernization, the researchers will consider the fact that internal and external causes often intermingle and interact, and it is thus often difficult to disentangle the various threads.
In this sense, the project will also refer to the basic questions connected to universalization and a fragmentation of cultures. The research aims to provide a basic explanatory scheme for such questions against the mirror of present theoretical studies in Chinese society.
The sociological part of the proposed research project is based upon the observation that the Modern Confucian discourses still reopen the questions about the relation of modern capitalism and culture, of the role of individuals and communities and of the relation between state and society in a new way and on a new level of intercultural methodology. It is therefore predicated on a paradigmatic shift in the focus of social inquiry from universal concepts as basic units of analysis to the concrete, cultural and ideological conditioned social structures, outlined in the social theories of the Modern Confucian scholars. In this sense, it aims to provide a rationale for new approaches in the theories of modernization, and at the same time proposes a research curriculum of new intercultural studies that may contribute to a paradigmatic reconceptualization in this research field. In this context, the research will also be focused upon the relation between human knowledge of the world and social structure. The project is based upon the conviction that sociological exploration of the contemporary intercultural interactions also requires a fundamental reconceptualization of development, with corresponding implications for the sociology of development. It is guided upon the necessity to explore modernity as both a social reality and a conceptual framework. Thus, the research will critically examine the three central sets of theoretical issues, prevailing in Modern Confucian socio-theoretical discourses, namely
Sociological research will also critically examine the Modern Confucian presumption (often regarded as the so-called “Post-Confucian thesis”), according to which East Asians have in common economic ethics that advocate competitive activism, hard work, thrift, education fever, and respect for authority, which are conducive to East Asia's success. They argue that these ethical precepts directly come from Confucian values. This thesis will be explored by investigations in various aspects of Chinese society in terms of cultural practices and their relation to the dominant ideologies, institutions and classes.
This research segment will also challenge the prevailing notion that China’s present cultural identity is the simple legacy of its pre-modern and traditional past. Among others, it also aims to demonstrate how seemingly participatory institutions can exclude significant sections, such as women. It will provide a typology of participation, expose the gender equality and efficiency implications of such exclusions, and analyse what underlies them. It will also outline a conceptual framework for analysing the process of gender exclusion and how it might be alleviated, taking into consideration the cultural particularities of Chinese tradition.
It is within this framework that the project researches will focus on the questions of the ratio of power, acceptance and exclusion, the kinds of which are mostly raised in the studies of marginalized groups with the lowest measurable quotient of the quality of life (not only women, but also immigrants, the handicapped, various members of discriminated ethnic, racial, religious, linguistic and gender minorities). These issues will also be examined against the background of Modern Confucian ideologies. In this context, the research team will cast a critical light on the conditions and causes of current doubts about the credibility of the dominant discourses held by Modern Confucian studies, which often presuppose such concepts of a collective identity that are supposedly linked to the processes in which collective, as well as individual identities, are being formed. A special scope of contents that will also be treated by the research studies from the field of sociology is a critical analysis and concrete investigation of the life quality concept in the context of the Modern Confucian discourses. On the basis of the analysis of systematically selected examples through case studies, the studies will attempt to clarify the cultural conditionality of the presumably universal values putatively defining the concept of life quality, as well as certain other related concepts, e.g. the concept of human rights. In such manner, the research aims to clarify that these notions as have been presented by the majority of prevailing sociological research is representing a scope of theoretical and axiological connotations that are typical for the Western societies and their ideological paradigms.
The task of sociology within the framework of this project will be, among other issues, based on the actual culturally-defined differences that occur in the relationship between individual and society: when discussing the origin and development of these concepts in the European tradition, we are simultaneously talking about the position of the individual within a mechanistically designed community. The fundamental rights of the individual are, in a typological presentation of these “democratic” societies, limited by the fundamental rights of others. The ideological basis of Western humanistic democracy is therefore a quantitatively determinable concept of justice and equality. While this relation is in the European, Hellenistic-Christian tradition enforced by agreements, formal conventions and laws, it seems that the idea that righteousness and harmony among people could be attained with the help of setting normative, generally accepted and enforced regulations, has never really struck root in China. This can already be clearly seen if we take a look at the concept of individual rights, which was founded on specific cultural bounded values and has thus also been alien to the traditional concept of Chinese humanism.
Hence, the project studies in the field of Chinese sociology will also conduct a detailed research in the central concepts of humanism as can be found in modern Confucian philosophical and axiological traditions, forming the central component of all political and social theories, especially those deriving from the state-forming Confucianism.
(Jana Rošker, Olga Markič, Andrej Ule and Lee Ming-Huei as external collaborator)
This scope of questions will also be connected to the problems linked to the cultural conditionality of existing modernization patterns. In this scope, however, the research will open with identifying different semantic and social connotations of the key concepts, developed (or re-interpreted) by Modern Confucian philosophers. The project will therefore focus upon Modern Confucian treatments of epistemological and ethical concepts that could serve as a foundation for a “Chinese” modernization theory.
Over the past few decades, the theoretical streams of contemporary sinology and modern Chinese philosophy have devoted increasing attention to investigating and comparing the substantial and methodological assumptions of the so-called "Eastern" and "Western" traditions.
Irrespective of the question as to where the concern for the "clarification" and "determination" of similarities and differences of both epistemological systems arises, the search for a dialogue has always been determined by constant attempts to supersede and resume the limits of knowledge, walking a fine line between revelation and acceptation, narration and interpretation. The constantly growing number of studies in this area is due to, among other things, the increasingly urgent need to clarify the methodological foundations of the modern theory of science, which must keep abreast of the technological and political developments of modern societies.
The philosophical segment of the proposed project will therefore focus upon specific reactions of Modern Confucian philosophies to modernization. This approach leads towards establishing or defining a specifically Chinese view of modernity and transformation, which manifests itself in the spiritually enriched subject, founded on the basis of new morality of axiological enriched reason.
Therefore, the basic approach of the proposed project is defined by the analysis of traditional ideas, comparable to the three crucial concepts of modernization, namely the concept of subject, the concept of rationality and the concept of humanism. According to Modern Confucian interpretations, classical Confucianism (especially the Neo-Confucian philosophy) has elaborated these ideas in the categories of the spiritual Self (性體) in the sense of the self-reflexive will, humaness (仁) in the sense of both, the source and the end of the development of the individual and the community, as well as the (specifically Chinese) principle of structurally determined reasonableness (理), avoiding the apparent separation of rationality vs. feeling. The semantic development of the character li 理 which generally denotes a structural pattern or structural order was determined by multiple factors and is linked to discrepancies between discourses that appeared in the European intellectual tradition and those that were established within the context of specific Chinese thought. Concerning the concept ren仁 (humaness), the project will mainly explore the Modern Confucian attempts to integrate it through the self-integration of the subject. According to most Modern Confucian philosophers, the latter belongs to the immanent moral mind.
In order to clarify the theoretical bases of such approaches, the research will open with investigations in Modern Confucian interpretations of ontological problems which had been introduced by Western systems of thought. It aims to highlight the Modern Confucian belief that questions related to the ultimate reality of the cosmos, the substance of being and the Absolute determined the meaning of life and were crucial to the establishment of a new value system compatible with current social conditions and the preservation of an integral cultural and personal identity. Modern Confucian philosophers thus looked to ontology as the philosophical discipline that would provide clear solutions to the problems they faced, beginning with that of Western modernization, and with the conviction that only through a genuine and clear comprehension of the cosmic substance would modern man be able to find his spiritual home again. The crucial task, therefore, was to find the “proper” orientation, i.e. new, clearly marked signposts which pointed the way towards modern culture, while also providing basic criteria for solving practical problems in the sphere of politics and the economy. Without such a framework of orientations, society would slip into a generalized spiritual malaise, in which the actions of individuals would be determined by the purely mechanistic laws of technocratic utility. In this case, the comprehension of Western thought for the purposes of finding spiritual guidelines for the modernization in course would necessarily remain fragmentary, incoherent and superficial, and would therefore not only be incapable of enriching the Chinese spiritual world, but would actually accelerate the processes of spiritual disorder and alienation. The focus upon ontological questions can thus be seen as a specific reaction of traditional Chinese philosophy to modernization. According to Modern Confucian interpretations, classical Confucianism saw Heaven or Nature (天) as the ultimate noumenon, which was transcendental and represented the elementary entity, creating and changing everything that exists. However, it also belonged to immanent concepts, for it presented human beings with nature (性), essentially determined by the elementary Confucian virtue of humaness (仁). In their interpretations of traditional systems, the Modern Confucians went even a step further: in their discourses, human nature (性) became that potential which not only formed the moral or spiritual Self, but simultaneously also transcended the individual's empirical and physiological characteristics. By acting in accordance with humaness (仁), human beings could experience their unity with Heaven/Nature (天人合一), and thus comprehend the genuine meaning and value of their existence.
The philosophical part of the research shall investigate different approaches of Modern Confucian philosophers to the revitalization of traditional Chinese (especially Confucian) thought in modern times. These investigations will also include the methods by which they examined the quality and functions of human perceptive potential according to their understanding of the Chinese epistemological tradition. According to Modern Confucian philosophers, the basic feature of the Confucian worldview was its focus on positive aspects of human life, and the fact that it proceeded from the concept of the subject. They doubtless saw this positive approach in the repeated Confucian negation of mystical and rationally incomprehensible aspects of life, which also explained why all of Confucian metaphysics was imbued with the problem of morality. In this discourse, ethics and ethical implications transcended the world of formally structured pragmatics. The search for possible ways to endow existence with ethical meaning, which in Western philosophies was most often seen as belonging to the domain of religious studies, remained very much a problem for the rationality of metaphysics in the context of Confucian thought. From a Western perspective, this somehow shifted the boundary between the philosophical and religious ethics that were specifically expressed in Confucian and Neo-Confucian discourses of subjectivity and social interactions.
Comparative philosophy will form an important part of this research segment. Modern Confucian philosophers have namely also tried to find a framework for the revitalisation of traditional Chinese theories in Western methodologies and by applying Western categorical structures. In this regard, they usually followed the theoretical approaches of German Idealism, especially those that were established by its pioneer Immanuel Kant. They found his philosophy to be culturally closer to their own tradition than any other European discourse. Most of them saw Kant's philosophy as the only philosophy that can engage in dialogue with Chinese philosophy. In this context, the proposed research will examine the ways in which Modern Confucian philosophers changed the framework within which traditional Chinese philosophical inquiry has been carried out. The research shall examine this paradigm shift which consists in several closely related innovations that have become axiomatic for the further development of modern Chinese philosophy.
Permanent members of the research team:
Temporary members of the research team (research in particular partial segments of the project topic):
Categorization and SICRIS evaluation of all project related publications is here.
The proposed research aims to reveal the cultural conditionality of modernization processes, as seen through the lens of the Confucian revival and its social consequences. Most classical Western modernization theorists, including Max Weber, argued that Confucianism was incompatible with the development of a modern economic system. In Weber's view, only the Protestantism of northern Europe offered an ethical system with the necessary attributes for establishing a modern society. But today it has become abundantly clear that the “ most capitalistic” societies of the 21st century are to be found in Asia. Although the research will be chiefly concerned with Chinese Modern Confucianism and its relation to Chinese modernization, it will also examine the wider sphere of East Asian development, in order to determine whether it is only a coincidence that all of these rapidly modernizing Asian societies are located within the so called Confucian cultural zone. Similarly, it will also try to determine whether the economic success of Japan and the "Four Little Dragons" (Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore) and the more recent explosive development of P.R. China can likewise be attributed, at least in part, to such crucial Confucian virtues as social hierarchy, self discipline, social harmony, strong families and a respect for education. While the Confucian hypothesis has resulted in an unprecedented and increasingly international interest in this modern philosophical current, the research will also examine the opposing viewpoints, which argue that these purportedly Confucian virtues are actually “ modernization ideologies” that have been generated and imposed by the governments of the countries involved in order to guarantee economic development and social stability. Relying on an intercultural methodology and based on close analyses of the aforesaid issues and problems, the proposed research aims to gain new insights into Modern Confucian discourses, both in terms of their ability to explain the current historical and economic processes and their actual impact on these processes.
The basic question the proposed project intends to respond to regards the cultural determinism or relativity of modernization patterns in different societies. It thus intends to question the supposed universality of modernization processes. Based on the assumption that Confucianism defines the quintessence of “ sinism” , the research will explore specifically “ sinistic” patterns of modernization. This term, which was coined by the sinologist H.G. Creel (1929), identifies a scope of specific social, intellectual and political features and theoretical patterns which originated in the Chinese tradition, but which also underpin – both socially and conceptually – other East Asian societies where Chinese ideograms were used historically, and are still in use today. These societies include, in particular, Korea and Japan, but also Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The research's basic supposition, therefore, is that the ideographic script embodies and expresses specific modes of perception and communication. However, it does not subscribe to the so called “ sinitic cognitive patterns”, which are currently the subject of much debate in East Asia, and queries the essentialistic comparisons and generalizations which characterize many of these debates. According to this approach, “sinitic cognitive patterns” manifest themselves in orientations that are primarily pragmatic, practical, concrete, inductive and particular, as opposed to the metaphysical, speculative, deductive or general patterns of Western societies. In eschewing such generalizations, the project aims to analyse the common features of social structures and values prevailing in these societies and explore the role of Modern Confucianism within them. Although this current ( ) was mainly developed during the last century in Taiwan and Hong Kong, over the past two decades it has also gained a widespread popularity in the P.R. China. Presently, it is thus one of the most influential and important streams of thought in contemporary East Asian humanities and represents a crucial aspect of the new prevailing deologies in all those modern societies where the Chinese language and ideograms are used (P.R. China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and, in part, Singapore).
The basic approach will be divided into six phases. The duration of each phase will be 6 months. Each phase will result in a meeting of all project members and in the exchange and joint evaluation of new research results. Data from these exchanges will give us important feedbacks and will be taken into consideration for the next phase of research.
|Kick-off meeting of Slovenian research group members and external collaborators (discussions on the overall research structure and the incorporation of particular research segments; creation of the basic coordination scheme; basic task division)||X|
|Further meetings at the end of each research phase (exchange of research results; joint evaluation; planning of further investigations and joint activities; Discussions on the overall research structure and the incorporation of particular research segments)||X||X||X||X|
|Final meeting of Slovenian research group members and external collaborators (final presentation, discussion, synthesis and evaluation of research results, the planning of further collaborations)||X|
|Creating and maintaining the project website||X||X||X||X||X|
|Continuous review of current literature, intense background research||X||X||X||X||X||X|
|Prep for conferences and publications||X||X||X|
|Writing and revising of partial reports||X||X|
|Attending conferences on project-related topics||X||X||X||X|
|Preparations, organization and realization of the International Conference on Confucian revival which will take place in Ljubljana||X||X||X|
|Research trips to China, Japan and South Korea – working in archives, field work (interviews and surveys)||X||X||X||X||X||X|
|Publishing particular research results in academic journals (original scientific papers)||X||X||X|
|Publishing the joint anthology implying research results of all project members and external collaborators||X|
|Verification/falsification of the central hypotheses and main research questions||X||X|
|Publishing the academic monograph in Slovene||X|
|Publishing the academic monograph in English||X|
|Syntheses of particular research results, preparing and writing the final report||X||X|
|Workshops for graduate students||X||X||X|
|Study program and curriculum elaboration (preparation and implementation of two optional subjects on the project related topics at the Department of Asian and African studies, Faculty of Arts, University in Ljubljana)||X||X||X||X|
|National and international symposiums||X||X||X|