Johnson, “The Souls of China”

This month, Pantheon Publishing releases “The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao,” by Ian Johnson.  The publisher’s description follows:

Paramore, “Japanese Confucianism”

This month, Cambridge University Press releases “Japanese Confucianism: A Cultural History” by Kiri Paramore (Leiden University). The publisher’s description follows:

For more than 1500 years, Confucianism has played a major role in shaping Japan’s history – from the formation of the first Japanese states during the first millennium AD, to Japan’s modernization in the nineteenth century, to World War II and its still unresolved legacies across East Asia today. In an illuminating and provocative new study, Kiri Paramore analyses the dynamic history of Japanese Confucianism, revealing its many cultural manifestations, as religion and as a political tool, as social capital and public discourse, as well as its role in international relations and statecraft. The book demonstrates the processes through which Confucianism was historically linked to other phenomenon, such as the rise of modern science and East Asian liberalism. In doing so, it offers new perspectives on the sociology of Confucianism and its impact on society, culture and politics across East Asia, past and present.

 

“Confucianism, A Habit of the Heart: Bellah, Civil Religion, and East Asia” (Ivanhoe & Kim eds.)

This month, SUNY Press releases “Confucianism, A Habit of the Heart: Bellah, Civil Religion, and East Asia” edited by Philip J. Ivanhoe (City University of Hong Kong) and Sungmoon Kim (City University of Hong Kong). The publisher’s description follows:

Can Confucianism be regarded as a civil religion for East Asia? This book explores this question, bringing the insights of Robert Bellah to a consideration of various expressions of the contemporary Confucian revival. Bellah identified American civil religion as a religious dimension of life that can be found throughout US culture, but one without any formal institutional structure. Rather, this “civil” form of religion provides the ethical principles that command reverence and by which a nation judges itself. Extending Bellah’s work, contributors from both the social sciences and the humanities conceive of East Asia’s Confucian revival as a “habit of the heart,” an underlying belief system that guides a society, and examine how Confucianism might function as a civil religion in China, Korea, and Japan. They discuss what aspects of Confucian tradition and thought are being embraced; some of the social movements, political factors, and opportunities connected with the revival of the tradition; and why Confucianism has not traveled much beyond East Asia. The late Robert Bellah’s reflection on the possibility for a global civil religion concludes the volume.

Fai, “Civilizing the Chinese, Competing with the West”

In January, the Columbia University Press released “Civilizing the Chinese, Competing wth the West: Study Societies in Late Qing China,” by Chen Hon Fai (Lingnan University). The publisher’s description follows:

This book explores the development of late 19th century study societies in China against the context of the decline of the imperial Qing government and its control9789629966348 on ideological production, widespread social unrest, and intrusions by Western imperialist states. The author uncovers the history of civil society activism in China by examining the study societies in Shanghai, Beijing, and Hunan, which were organized around the goal of promoting and defending the Confucian religion. Illustrating a facet of the civil society that emerged in China as a reaction to the influences of Christianity, the modernization of Confucianism, and nationalist state formation, this study extends understanding of the unique and complex processes of Chinese political and cultural modernization in ways that differed from that of Western societies.

Shaw, “The Lost Mandate of Heaven”

In November, Ignatius Press released “The Lost Mandate of Heaven: The American Betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of Vietnam” by Dr. Geoffrey Shaw (Alexandrian Defense Group). The publisher’s description follows:

Ngo Dinh Diem, the first president of the Republic of Vietnam, possessed the Confucian “Mandate of Heaven”, a moral and political authority that was widely recognized by all Vietnamese. This devout Roman Catholic leader never lost this mandate in the eyes of his people; rather, he was taken down by a military coup sponsored by the U.S. government, which resulted in his brutal murder.

The commonly held view runs contrary to the above assertion by military historian Geoffrey Shaw. According to many American historians, President Diem was a corrupt leader whose tyrannical actions lost him the loyalty of his people and the possibility of a military victory over the North Vietnamese. The Kennedy Administration, they argue, had to withdraw its support of Diem.

Based on his research of original sources, including declassified documents of the U.S. government, Shaw chronicles the Kennedy administration’s betrayal of this ally, which proved to be not only a moral failure but also a political disaster that led America into a protracted and costly war. Along the way, Shaw reveals a President Diem very different from the despot portrayed by the press during its coverage of Vietnam. From eyewitness accounts of military, intelligence, and diplomatic sources, Shaw draws the portrait of a man with rare integrity, a patriot who strove to free his country from Western colonialism while protecting it from Communism.

Zhao, “The Confucian-Legalist State A New Theory of Chinese History”

In November, Oxford University Press will release “The Confucian-Legalist State A New Theory of Chinese History” by Dingxin Zhao (University of Chicago). The publisher’s description follows:

The Confucian-Legalist State analyzes the history of China between the 11th century BCE and 1911 under the guidance of a new theory of social change. It centers on two questions. First, how and why China was unified and developed into a bureaucratic empire under the state of Qin in 221 BCE? Second, how was it that, until the nineteenth century, the political and cultural structure of China that was institutionalized during the Western Han dynasty (206 BCE – 8 CE) showed great resilience, despite great changes in demography, socioeconomic structure, ethnic composition, market relations, religious landscapes, technology, and in other respects brought by rebellions or nomadic conquests? In addressing these two questions, author Dingxin Zhao also explains numerous other historical patterns of China, including but not limited to the nature of ancient China’s interstate relations, the logics behind the rising importance of imperil Confucianism during the Western Han dynasty and behind the formation of Neo-Confucian society during the Song dynasty (960-1279 CE), the changing nature of China’s religious ecology under the age of Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism, the pattern of interactions between nomads and sedentary Chinese empires, the rise and dominance of civilian government, and China’s inability to develop industrial capitalism without the coercion of Western imperialism.

 

Rosemont, “Against Individualism: A Confucian Rethinking of the Foundations of Morality, Politics, Family, and Religion”

In March, Rowman & Littlefield released “Against Individualism: A Confucian Rethinking of the Foundations of Morality, Politics, Family, and Religion” by Henry Rosemont Jr. (Brown University). The publisher’s description follows:

The first part of Against Individualism: A Confucian Rethinking of the Foundations of Morality, Politics, Family, and Religion is devoted to showing how and why the vision of human beings as free, independent and autonomous individuals is and always was a mirage that has served liberatory functions in the past, but has now become pernicious for even thinking clearly about, much less achieving social and economic justice, maintaining democracy, or addressing the manifold environmental and other problems facing the world today.

In the second and larger part of the book Rosemont proffers a different vision of being human gleaned from the texts of classical Confucianism, namely, that we are first and foremost interrelated and thus interdependent persons whose uniqueness lies in the multiplicity of roles we each live throughout our lives. This leads to an ethics based on those mutual roles in sharp contrast to individualist moralities, but which nevertheless reflect the facts of our everyday lives very well. The book concludes by exploring briefly a number of implications of this vision for thinking differently about politics, family life, justice, and the development of a human-centered authentic religiousness. This book will be of value to all students and scholars of philosophy, political theory, and Religious, Chinese, and Family Studies, as well as everyone interested in the intersection of morality with their everyday and public lives.

More on Christianity and the Problem of Church and State

Apropos of my earlier post on Plucknett’s fine volume and the problem of church andSanjiang Church state is this difficult story in today’s New York Times about the Chinese government’s decision to bulldoze the beautiful and imposing Sanjian Church in Wenzhou. You can see the pile of ash and rubble that remains. The ostensible secular purpose offered by the government was a violation of a zoning ordinance. But the story reports that the Chinese government has issued demolition orders and orders for the removal of crosses for dozens of other Christian churches as part of a concerted, but non-public, strategy to suppress Christianity and its “excessive religious sites” and “overly popular” religious activities.

Also of interest is that Christianity in particular seems to be a problem for the government. Government officials have been publicly praising other religions including Buddhism and Confucianism–a dramatic change in official policy–in an effort to augment the growing inter-religious tensions. But “Christianity,” the story reports, “is seen by some in the government as a colonial vestige at odds with the party’s control of political and social life.”

Eng, Ruskola & Shen on China and the Human

David L. Eng (U. of Penn.), Teemu Ruskola (Emory U. School of Law) Shuang Shen (Penn. State. U.) has posted China and the Human. The abstract follows.

China is everywhere in the news. Most stories seem to fall into one of two categories: accounts of China’s astounding economic development, and reports of equally astonishing human rights abuses in China. Paradoxically, as it turns into a global economic powerhouse, China’s relationship to political freedoms and rights appears to stand in an almost inverse relationship to its economic success. To make sense of the contemporary political moment, this essay examines the politics and histories of China and the human. At the same time, it constitutes a critical introduction to a special double issue of the journal Social Text on the same theme. The special issue, consisting of eleven essays and a visual dossier, considers the problematic conceptual, political, historical, and cultural relationship between Chineseness and humanity. By juxtaposing “China” and “the human” as two discrete categories, this introductory essay does not assume either concept as a pre-given object of knowledge. Rather — together with the other essays in the volume — it examines both China and the human as set of relational, differential, and contrapuntal events, in specific historical and geopolitical contexts.

The introductory essay provides a conceptual and historical map for this inquiry, in a comparative context that examines Euro-American, Chinese, and transnational itineraries of the human and their global crossings. It analyzes China’s potential to undo the universalizing claims of Western idealized norms of the human, while refusing to re-essentialize a Chinese otherness as an alternative perspective. More specifically, the essay interrogates the domination and limitations of the universal human while tracing alternative cosmologies and discourses of Chinese humanism and anti-humanism, informed by Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism, as well as other religious and political traditions. It also examines Marxist and Maoist conceptualizations of the human from transnational perspectives, and finally it considers the status of the human in contemporary China, defined increasingly as a bearer of a set of political and legal rights. What humanity means in China today — and in the world — and what it will mean in the future, is part of an ongoing struggle over the meaning of the past and the politics of the present. This essay offers “China” as a methodology in itself, rather than simply an object of inquiry.

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