Comparative studies of European and Chinese cultural identity: a conceptual and historical approach

Liu, C.-Y., 2002. Comparative studies of European and Chinese cultural identity: a conceptual and historical approach. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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Adopting a combined conceptual and historical approach, the main theme of the thesis is to investigate, through the structured history of Europe and China in the longue durée (with the emphasis on the period from 1450 to 1900) and their historical cultural encounters, the disparate "cultural logics" of self-identification in both cultural systems. The thesis takes "cultural identity" as an ongoing interactive process within which an individual and a collective continuously derive their self-awareness from, and at the same time reflect their self-consciousness upon, multifaceted "life aspects" (i.e. material conditions; social, economic, political institutions; norms, ways of thinking, mental vicissitudes, and mundane practices). Such communicative processes between meanings and life aspects provide each individual a distinct way of life, which when generalised at a collective level may be recognised as the "Chineseness" or "Europeanness" of people, and which when traced through time may be specified as their "trajectories of cultural identity".

Differing from most political and economic centred history, the thesis asserts that the ebb and flow of power between Europe and China started at the turn of the 16th century (and only became clear in the 19th century), had not so much to do with China's shortfalls of economic resources, advanced technologies, political institutions, and military power, but more to do with its insistence on the principle of virtuous rule, the inward-looking and non-aggressive cultural logic. What is critical for the Euro-Chinese divergence in material progress after the 16th century is not simply the practice of endless accumulation of capital and the institutional mobilisation of power in Europe, but the moral-ethical reforms, or the collective mentality changes behind such structuralised behaviours. It was such moral-ethical reforms that directed Europe into a culture that was characterised by an outward-looking and goal-profit-calculating cultural logic, which values the acquisition of wealth and power over the moral and ethical claim of equality among nations.

The thesis concludes that since the inner logics varied essentially, it is inadequate to judge the success or failure of Europe or China simply through the comparison of material progress and superficial political and economic structures without taking the possible effect of cultural logics into account. Rather, it is held that every culture may maintain its own way of value judgement, and the incommensurability of culture often lies in the lack of appropriate interpretations of the inner logics. On the other hand, cultural logics are not invariable. Our historical studies suggest that the transformation of a culture is subject to continuous negotiation processes among different aspects of culture, which involve a variable pattern of combinations among geo-ethnic conditions, political-economic institutions, practices of routine, embedding cultural logics, external challenges, as well as historical contingencies (or unintended consequences). Under such a dialogic connectivity, culture influences the practice of policymakers by saturating into their way of thinking, and by containing them within a culturally defined value system in such a way that a political-economic policy is set within a context of cultural debates. And by conceiving the instrumental and humanistic rationalities under an interactive yet integral theoretical framework, a cultural perspective contributes in elaborating further on how cultural factors may influence the functions of political economy, and clarify many of the yet-to-be-identified factors that cannot be adequately contextualised by instrumental rationality alone

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Liu, C.-Y.
Date: 2002
ISBN: 9781369314670
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 21 Sep 2020 15:02
Last Modified: 28 Jul 2023 14:03

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