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A Case Study of Historiography of Event: ‘1840’-A Significant Year for the Incorporation of China
Unformatted Document Text:  A Case Study of Historiography of Event: ‘1840’-A Significant Year for the Incorporation of China Men encounter grand social system. Men work to change the world and construct the history. ‘1840’ was a significant year in East-West history when British gunboats defeated the Qing's traditional navy-shuishi in the Pearl River. Behind the historical event of ‘1840’ is the change of strength, power and wealth of the East and the West. The meeting of the Sino-centric tributary world-system and the capitalist word-system, and the disintegration of the Sino-centric world order and the incorporation of China and her tributaries into the capitalist world-system contribute to the revelation of the event of ‘1840’. As Chairman Mao declared the foundation of People’s Republic of China in Beijing in 1949, it changed the historical meaning of ‘1840’. The historical East-West encounter of one-and-half century long succeeding the Opium War preceded with the appearance of an independent China in East Asia geo-economically, geo-politically, strategically, and probably geo-culturally. Why? I will examine the methodological and epistemological validity of major approaches, including modernization perspectives, Sino-Marxist perspectives, and the world-system perspective, to the historical-social phenomenon of the appearance of an independent China. Modernization Perspectives Modernization perspectives emphasize the dynamic social orientation of cultural and institutional processes toward the development of modernity and modern capitalism. One of Weber’s main theoretical inquiries is why rational capitalism appears as a peculiar and dominant phenomenon in the modern West. ‘Rationality’ issue is Weber’s focus and his project is to make comparison of the capability of secular transformation of Protestantism into economic dynamics with that of different world religions, including Catholicism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. For Weber, Chinese ‘world-adjustment rationalism’ lacked the dynamic social orientation toward the development of rational capitalism. Various scholarly interpretations of the economic implications of religious/cultural values of the Sinic world of East Asia have alleged their inheritance from Weber’s sociological study of Asian religions although their arguments have focused on either that the Confucian culture could further rather than hinder the economic development, or that different versions of Confucianism in different time (like post-Confucianism instead of classical Confucianism) and in different place (like Japanese Confucianism instead of Chinese Confucianism) could further the economic development (Jin, 1977; - 1 -

Authors: Shih, Miin-wen.
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        A Case Study of Historiography of Event: ‘1840’-A Significant Year for the 
Incorporation of China
Men encounter grand social system. Men work to change the world and construct the 
history.
 ‘1840’ was a significant year in East-West history when British gunboats defeated the 
Qing's traditional navy-shuishi in the Pearl River. Behind the historical event of ‘1840’ is 
the change of strength, power and wealth of the East and the West. The meeting of the 
Sino-centric tributary world-system and the capitalist word-system, and the disintegration 
of the Sino-centric world order and the incorporation of China and her tributaries into the 
capitalist world-system contribute to the revelation of the event of ‘1840’. As Chairman 
Mao   declared   the   foundation   of   People’s   Republic   of   China   in   Beijing   in   1949,   it 
changed the historical meaning of ‘1840’. 
The historical East-West encounter of one-and-half century long succeeding the Opium 
War   preceded   with   the   appearance   of   an   independent   China   in   East   Asia   geo-
economically, geo-politically, strategically, and probably geo-culturally. Why?    
I will examine the methodological and epistemological validity of major approaches, 
including modernization perspectives, Sino-Marxist perspectives, and the world-system 
perspective, to the historical-social phenomenon of the appearance of an independent 
China.   
Modernization Perspectives 
Modernization perspectives emphasize the dynamic social orientation of cultural 
and   institutional   processes   toward   the   development   of   modernity   and   modern 
capitalism.  
One of Weber’s main theoretical inquiries is why rational capitalism appears as a 
peculiar   and   dominant   phenomenon   in   the   modern   West.   ‘Rationality’  issue   is 
Weber’s focus and his project is to make comparison of the capability of secular 
transformation   of   Protestantism   into   economic   dynamics   with   that   of   different 
world religions, including Catholicism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Hinduism and 
Islam.   For   Weber,   Chinese   ‘world-adjustment   rationalism’  lacked   the   dynamic 
social orientation toward the development of rational capitalism. 
Various   scholarly   interpretations   of   the   economic   implications   of 
religious/cultural   values   of   the   Sinic   world   of   East   Asia   have   alleged   their 
inheritance   from   Weber’s   sociological   study   of  Asian   religions   although   their 
arguments have focused on either that the Confucian culture could further rather 
than   hinder   the   economic   development,   or   that   different   versions   of 
Confucianism   in   different   time   (like   post-Confucianism   instead   of   classical 
Confucianism)   and   in   different   place   (like   Japanese   Confucianism   instead   of 
Chinese   Confucianism)   could   further   the   economic   development   (Jin,   1977; 
- 1 -


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