Alternate Civilities

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Some Asian political leaders and Western academics have recently claimed that China is unlikely to produce an open political system. This claim rests on the idea that “Confucian culture” provides an alternative to Western civil values, and that China lacked the democratic traditions and even the horizontal institutions of trust that could build a civil society. An opposed school of thought is far more optimistic about democracy, because it sees market economies of the kind China has begun to foster as pushing inexorably against authoritarian political control and reproducing Western patterns of change.Alternate Civilities argues for a different set of political possibilities. By comparing China with Taiwan’s new and vibrant democracy, it shows how democracy can grow out of Chinese cultural roots and authoritarian institutions. The business organizations, religious groups, environmental movements, and women’s networks it examines do not simply reproduce Western values and institutions. These cases point to the possibility of an alternate civility, neither the stubborn remnant of an ancient authoritarian culture, nor a reflex of market economics. They are instead the active creation of new solutions to the problems of modern life.
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Editorial Reviews

Journal of Asian Studies
A major contribution to our understanding of Chinese culture....The book resolves so many problems that it is a delight to read.
A fine comparative study, recommended at all levels.
China Journal
Weller’s book is a valuable addition to China studies – as a thoughtful, nuanced and expertly observed picture of modern Taiwanese civic life.
Dismissing the conventional arguments that China will never attain western democracy because of her Confucian past and that the new economic institutions their will inexorably lead to democracy, Weller (anthropology, Boston U.), argues that what he calls the new and vibrant democracy in Taiwan demonstrates how democracy can grow out of Chinese cultural roots and authoritarian institutions. He examines business organizations, religious groups, environmental movements, and women's networks and shows how they represent neither an ancient authoritarian culture nor a reflex of market economics but a new form. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813339313
  • Publisher: Westview Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Weller has been doing research on local life in China and Taiwan for over two decades. His other books include Resistance, Chaos, and Control in China: Taiping Rebels, Taiwanese Ghosts, and TiananmenUnities and Diversities in Chinese Religions, and several edited works. He is research associate at the Institute for the Study of Economic Culture and associate professor of anthropology at Boston University.
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Table of Contents

List of Figures ix
Preface xi
Acknowledgments xv
1 Culture, Economy, and the Roots of Civil Change 1
Culture and Economy 3
Voluntary Associations and Civil Life 12
2 Legacies 23
Philosophical Legacies and Key Terms 23
Institutional Legacies 29
Conclusion 35
3 The Limits to Authority 41
Taiwan and the Republic of China 44
The People's Republic of China 50
Conclusions 56
4 Business and the Limits to Civil Association 63
Social Embeddedness 66
The Role of Women 71
State Embeddedness 74
Conclusion 77
5 Religion: Local Association and Split Market Cultures 83
Local Temple Religion 84
New Selves and New Moralities 88
Women and Religion 93
Split Market Cultures and Civil Association 100
6 Forms of Association and Social Action 107
Taiwan's Environmental Movement 111
The People's Republic 126
7 Alternate Civilities and Political Change 135
The Bifurcation of Social Associations 136
Alternate Civilities, Alternate Modernities 138
Women's Leading Roles 140
Associational Life and Political Transformations 142
Appendix 149
Bibliography 153
Index 163
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