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POLS 373 Foundations of Comparative Politics Lecture: Why is East Asia Rich? Part 3, Cultural Perspective Professor Timothy C. Lim California State University,

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Presentation on theme: "POLS 373 Foundations of Comparative Politics Lecture: Why is East Asia Rich? Part 3, Cultural Perspective Professor Timothy C. Lim California State University,"— Presentation transcript:

1 POLS 373 Foundations of Comparative Politics Lecture: Why is East Asia Rich? Part 3, Cultural Perspective Professor Timothy C. Lim California State University, Los Angeles

2 2 The Cultural Perspective Why is East Asia Rich? The Explanations

3 3 Beware of simplistic cultural arguments! Most contemporary culturalists agree that culture matters, or is relevant to an explanation of East Asian development; however, …  no “good culturalist” argues that cultural factors alone can explain the economic rise of East Asia  there are plenty of superficially appealing, but problematic cultural arguments about East Asia’s economic success: the “Old” Confucian Argument is one of these Why is East Asia Rich? The Explanations: Cultural Perspective

4 4 The “Old” Confucian Argument: Key Points Values of Confucianism inculcate important values among ordinary people: hard work, respect for education, thriftiness, self-sacrifice, etc. Values of Confucianism provide a model for good government: virtuous, meritorious, and non-corrupt Values of Confucianism created particularly effective institutional basis for government-business and business-labor relations--allowed the East Asian countries to function as single, tightly disciplined, and highly efficient, economic units, encapsulated in the terms “Japan, Inc.” or “Korea, Inc.” Why is East Asia Rich? The Explanations: Cultural Perspective

5 5 The “Old” Confucian Argument: Key Points One of the most salient Confucian values is respect for education In East Asia, the enormous emphasis put on educational achievement, so the argument goes, has not only given East Asian societies a huge competitive advantage over less educated and less skilled societies, but also has allowed East Asia to catch up with the West more quickly than would otherwise have been the case Why is East Asia Rich? The Explanations: Cultural Perspective A 12-year old Japanese student cramming for school exams during the winter holiday Advocates of the “old” Confucian argument may also note that Asia- Americans exhibit the same tendency as Asians in East Asia. Consider the following statistics: in the US, Asians are much more likely to complete college than any other group: White, 29%, African-American, 14%, Hispanic (non-white), 11%, Asian, 50%. In America’s elite colleges, Asian American students are dramatically “over-represented.” At UC Berkeley, for example, 46% of freshmen in 2006 were Asian American …. Asians made up 24 percent of the undergraduate population at Carnegie Mellon and at Stanford, 27 percent at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 14 percent at Yale and 13 percent at Princeton. To put these numbers in perspective, consider that Asian Americans are only 5% of the US population.

6 The “Old” Confucian Argument: An Example Quoted from “School Daze,” Time Magazine (available online)available online “The East Asian economic miracle was built on a number of sturdy pillars: hard work, high savings rates and Confucian values inin particular, an almost fanatical belief in the value of education. And for years, Asia could rest easy in the knowledge that its school systems were producing the best and the brightest. Rising GDPs were proof …. East Asian students almost always scored higher in international math and science tests across the board, country by country than their counterparts in the West. All you had to do was walk into an Asian classroom to see what they were doing right. Students were diligent, quiet, involved in copying down the daily lessons. It was nothing like the chaos of, say, American schools with the spitballs and pierced eyebrows and the emphasis on attitude with-a-capital-A.” Students in Asian countries still lead the world in math and science achievement, according to a test of 50,000 eighth graders from 38 countries(Maximum score is 650)

7 7 The “Old” Confucian Argument The basic Confucian argument, on the surface, sounds reasonable … Why is East Asia Rich? The Explanations: Cultural Perspective So what’s the problem? = = Sounds simple. Work hard! Respect your elders! Be virtuous! Value education! Be meritorious!

8 8 The Problems with the “Old” Confucian Argument Generic and overly general: Assumes that Confucianism is the same in all East Asian societies Superficial: Fails to account for the different ways in which Confucian values have been embedded into different societies Unidirectional: Does not explain why and how Confucian values did not lead to rapid development in earlier periods Simplistic: Fails to account for how cultural values interact with political, social and economic processes to produce specific outcomes in specific contexts Why is East Asia Rich? The Explanations: Cultural Perspective

9 9 Confucian Values and East Asian Development: A Better Approach In place of an all-encompassing Confucian argument are approaches that examine the relationship between culture and economy with careful regard to specific contexts Why is East Asia Rich? The Explanations: Cultural Perspective Consider the examples discussed in the chapter: capitalist development and Confucianism in Japan and Taiwan

10 10 Confucianism and Economic Development in Japan In prewar period, Confucianism successfully used by political and economic elite to create new national culture, one that made capitalist development a patriotic and moral duty  Encouraged self-sacrificing behavior on part of citizenry and workers  Made possible extraordinarily rapid mobilization of resources, large- scale investment and dramatic increases in output  Justified (in the minds of workers’ themselves) repression of labor rights, low-wages, long-hours, and generally oppressive working conditions  Select Confucian values were integrated into educational and employment systems: the aim was to create a new ideology in which traditional hierarchical relationship were transferred to industrial relations Why is East Asia Rich? The Explanations: Cultural Perspective

11 11 Confucianism and Economic Development in Japan “The master-the capitalist--is loving toward those below, and takes tender care of them, while the employee--worker-- respects those above and will sacrifice himself to his work. The spirit of loyalty and love of country … is by no means limited to the relationship between the sovereign and subject” Why is East Asia Rich? The Explanations: Cultural Perspective

12 12 Confucianism and Economic Development Confucian values also help to explain the role of the state in the economy, although Japan’s other cultural and historical traditions also played a key role. Consider the saying … Bureaucracy honored, people despised This saying reflects an already strong privileging of the state; in the Meiji era, the dominant position of the state was further solidified through both cultural and political processes Why is East Asia Rich? The Explanations: Cultural Perspective The privileged position of the state bureaucracy is well represented in the practice of amakudari, literally “descent from Heaven.” This refers to the practice of former bureaucrats leaving their government posts (“Heaven”) at retirement to take positions in the private sector

13 13 Confucianism and Economic Development In sum, it is unclear to what extent Confucian values played a role in Japan’s economic rise Nonetheless, it is clear that select aspects of Confucianism were intentionally and intensely integrated into education, the workplace, government bureaucracy all for the purpose of achieving rapid industrialization. Specifically:  Confucian values help to institutionalize self-sacrifice, “harmonious” industrial relations, obedience and duty  Confucian values legitimized state dominance over the economy, subsumed individualistic pursuits to collective goals, and made hard work a moral and nationalistic imperative Why is East Asia Rich? The Explanations: Cultural Perspective

14 14 Confucianism and Economic Development in Taiwan In sharp contrast to Japan, some scholars are that Confucianism was never successfully embedded into Taiwan’s larger society; instead, it inspired an anti-Confucian backlash, that is, a rejection of Confucian values that led to development of “counter-culture” based on “heterodox” values Understanding this position requires that we abandon overly general or generic concepts of culture Why is East Asia Rich? The Explanations: Cultural Perspective What does this mean?

15 15 Confucianism and Economic Development According to Lam and Paltiel, Confucianism is not Chinese culture--it is only part of Chinese culture in Taiwan In reality, Chinese culture is made up of both dominant (orthodox) and countercultural (heterodox) values In Taiwan, these include Taoist, Buddhist, and other subcultures, which combined, create a populist culture Why is East Asia Rich? The Explanations: Cultural Perspective

16 16 Confucianism and Economic Development Lam and Paltiel argue that this populist culture in Taiwan has had important economic implications, including …  Emphasis on the individual and rejection of authority; economically, this is evident in large number of smaller firms  Creation of a free-wheeling, hypercompetitive domestic market  Development of “group corporations,” which are networks of informally, but strongly connected businesses based on personal connections (functional substitute for large, hierarchically organized corporations) Why is East Asia Rich? The Explanations: Cultural Perspective

17 17 Confucianism and Economic Development Why is East Asia Rich? The Explanations: Cultural Perspective Elite Culture Populist Culture Hierarchical Loyalty to rulers Obedience Glorification of Authority Rejects Authority Egalitarian Legitimates Rebellion Distrusts Intellectualism Enterprise structure, organization and dynamics

18 18 Confucianism in Japan and Taiwan Five Key Points/Summing Up Confucianism played a role in the economic development of both Taiwan and Japan, but it played a very, very different role In both cases, Confucianism interacted with social, political, and economic forces to produce specific outcomes In both cases, Confucianism was manipulated or co-opted as a political resource; nonetheless, it was part of the culture in both societies “Confucian culture” did not remain the same; this was particular evident in Japan In both cases, Confucianism’s impact on economic development can be seen as both positive and negative Why is East Asia Rich? The Explanations: Cultural Perspective


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