S-Space College of Social Sciences (사회과학대학) Institute for Social Development and Policy Research (사회발전연구소) Development and Society Development and Society Vol.29 No.1/2 (2000)
Inventing Asian Traditions: The Controversy between Lee Kuan Yew and Kim Dae Jung
- Riegel, Klausgeorg
- Issue Date
- Institute for Social Development and Policy Research, Center for Social Sciences, Seoul National University
- Development and Society, Vol.29 No.1, pp. 75-96
- The invention of traditions belongs among the normal consequences of modernization and nation-building. Intellectuals with political ambitions and politicians with intellectual visions of modernity are using the reflexive acquisition of the cultural traditions of the past for dominating the public interpretation of the symbolic universe of their societies. The historic past offers a rich storehouse of value orientations and symbolic representations which can be selected, interpreted and used for the revival, revision and invention of modernized traditions. The cultural traditions of the past cannot answer by themselves the questions posed in the context of modernization, with its attendant socio-cultural problems and crises. Cultural traditions must be invented in order to give viable solutions for yet unknown crises and break-downs in the process of modernization. In this sense, modernizing nations often deceive themselves about their cultural and historical pasts in order to open the door to a modern future. This paper presents and discusses different interpretations of the Confucian historical and cultural past as the cultural inventions of politicians with intellectual ambitions and visions. Lee Kuan Yew invented his Confucianism to serve as a modernizing ideology of authoritarianism, whereas Kim Dae Jung selected from the Confucian past those value orientations which supposedly shaped an Asian democracy suitable for his own ambitions of power in overthrowing the changing Korean military dictatorships. Reasons for the invention of different versions of Confucianism lie in the formative influences of the context of modernization in Singapore and South Korea, as well as in the diverse courses of the political careers of Lee Kuan Yew and Kim Dae Jung.
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