Rethinking the relationship between intellectuals and nationalism: A sociology of knowledge approach to philosophers' construction of national cultural identities in modern Japan and China

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Abstract

This study constructs a sociology of knowledge approach to explaining the relationship between intellectuals and nationalism, one that challenges the conventional intellectual historical approach of understanding the relationship through macro and remote factors. The sociological approach conceptualizes knowledge production dynamics as intervening variables that refract macro and remote causal impacts on knowledge contents. This study focuses on one such dynamic: a 'nationalist intellectual distinction' tactic that compels academics to produce indigenous knowledge that in turn inspires popular discourses on national culture. The utility of the approach is demonstrated through a comparative historical analysis of how early 20th-century Chinese and Japanese philosophers contributed to constructing national cultural identities. Based on primary and secondary historical data, it is found that all prominent philosophers in the two countries used nationalist intellectual distinction to build indigenous philosophies. Modern Japanese philosophers defined indigenous rationality, epistemology, and logic as aesthetical, mystical, and emotional and described indigenous ontology in terms of nothingness. Modern Chinese philosophers conceptualized indigenous rationality, epistemology, and logic in moral-practical terms and characterized indigenous ontology as this-worldly and humanistic. It is also found that popular discourses on national culture, which strongly shaped the national cultural identities of the two countries in the past 70 years, borrowed heavily from these philosophers' ideas on indigenous rationality, logic, and ontology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-333
Number of pages20
JournalCurrent Sociology
Volume62
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2014

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Modern Chinese philosophy
  • modern Japanese philosophy
  • national cultural identity
  • sociology of intellectuals
  • sociology of knowledge

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