GLOCOM Platform
opinions debates Media Reviews Tech Reviews Special Topics Books & Journals
Newsletters
(Japanese)
Summary Page
(Japanese)
Search with Google
Home > Opinions Last Updated: 15:03 03/09/2007
June 26, 2003

Political Science in Three Democracies, Disaffected (Japan), Third-Wave (Korea) and Fledgling (China): Abridged Version

Takashi Inoguchi (Professor, University of Tokyo)

(Abridged version of the paper prepared for presentation at the World Congress of the International Political Science Association, Durban, South Africa, June 28-July 4, 2003)
[Prof. Inoguchi's Full Paper is available in PDF Form]


1. Is Political Science an American Social Science?

Has political science been dominated by Americans? Yes, it has been for the last half a century--is a standard answer to the question. In terms of amount and variety--and some say in terms of quality as well, it is undeniable that American political science has led political science in the rest of the world. In political science journals in other countries, one can easily discern the creeping influence of American paradigms and authors just by looking at the uniformly comprehensive and catholic citation practice and the plain and clear style of presentation.

The purpose of this paper is to describe how political science has been developing in East Asia, Japan, Korea and China, for the last quarter of the last century, to show that their development has been proceeding in ways that are definitely associated with American political science often with some lags but that their development has been inexorably grounded on the nature and dynamics of their society and politics, especially the nature and dynamics of their democracies, a disaffected democracy in Japan, a third-wave democracy in Korea and a fledgling democracy in China and therefore that the dominance of American political science is not a key feature of these three political sciences. Before going into the three political sciences, I will first compare the three democracies that characterize the three regimes in East Asia. Then I will describe each of the three political sciences one by one, focusing on the kinds of subjects popular during the last quarter of the last century, in relation to the nature and dynamics of each regime. Lastly, conclusion will be drawn, pointing to the further need to closely examine the rise and fall of topics in relation to the regime self-transformation.


2. Disaffected Democracy, Third-Wave Democracy and Fledgling Democracy

A disaffected democracy is a democracy which is long since its birth, which has become mature and established, but in which distrust and indifference in politics have become a key feature. A disaffected democracy is also called an established or mature democracy in which critical citizens plays a key role of voicing dissent and demanding correction of wrongs. Whether a democracy had better be called a disaffected democracy or a critical democracy depends on one key feature of a democracy. It hinges on whether citizens demonstrate their robust commitment with democratic norms and values. Citizens' distrust in politicians and political institutions may not automatically constitute a strong evidence of its being a disaffected democracy. Rather, as long as the basic core commitment with democratic norms and values is robust, it is positive. Is Japan a disaffected democracy? Yes, it is. Two evidences. Confidence in political parties, the parliament, civil service, political leaders and the elected government are uniformly low. Furthermore, electorates overwhelmingly prefer democracy to authoritarianism, thus robust commitment with democratic norms, values and institutions.

Distinguished from a disaffected or established democracy is a third-wave democracy. Third-wave democracy is so called because it was born in the third wave of democratization in the twentieth century (first after World War I, second after World War II and third in the last quarter of the last century). Its key features are its focus on the procedural definition of democracy, on the electoral aspects of democracy, on the manipulative nature of democratic regime, and on the fragile nature of democratic commitment. Is Korea a third-wave democracy? Democratization took place in Korea, with the military dictatorship following the tide of democratization already underway in Southern Europe, Latin America, and East and Southeast Asia. Korean democracy has been exhibiting its volatility of public opinion, as exemplified by the dramatic anti-Americanism during the December 2002 Presidential election. Furthermore, a fairly sizable number of electorates prefer authoritarianism to democracy.

A fledgling democracy is in other words a semi-democracy or a democracy in the making. Although the basic nature of the regime is doubtlessly authoritarian, one can find some features that might as well transform themselves into a democratic form. They include the increasingly inclusionary nature of nomenkratura, village level democratic elections, and the increasingly attention to transparency and accountability. In China, for instance, Jiang Zemin's "three represents" doctrine wanted to enhance the members of the communist party by allowing those who are capitalist and those advanced in science and technology as well as those committed to the communist party. Increasingly practiced village elections allow multiple candidates directly chosen by popular votes although most candidates are from the communist party. Hu Jintao, the new President, proclaims the "three wei"s, meaning power used for people, sentiments shared with people, and interests promoted for people. It is not quite government by, but somewhat of, and increasingly for, people.

Given the above admittedly cursory review of a disaffected democracy, a third-wave democracy and a fledgling democracy, I shall describe the development of political science in Japan, Korea and China in this order with the different democratic characteristics kept in mind.


3. The Development of Political Science in Japan 1975-2000

Japan's unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers led by the United States set the stage for political science, so argued Masao Maruyama, a political scientist who came to dominate the third quarter of the last century in the discipline. He asked the twin questions and shaped Japan's fledgling political science. They were: (1) What went wrong to Japan in the 1930s and 1940s, which had been seemingly making progress in the scheme of "enlightenment and entrepreneurship" and "a rich country and a strong army"? (2) What is the secret of Western democracy in excelling itself in terms of keeping freedom and accumulating wealth? These questions led Japanese political science to produce historians of modern Japan and philosophers of Western countries.

For the last quarter of the last century, Japanese political science started to ask a different set of questions. Having built its confidence in its democracy and wealth accumulation in addition to the pacifist credentials of having waged no wars and no soldiers killed in combat, Japanese political scientists started to take a close look at its own political system. Why is Japanese politics shaped so heavily by bureaucracy? Why has Japan kept a one party dominant system? Why are its citizens so weakly partisan in their voting choice? How are politics and economics intertwined in policy making and electoral behavior? Initially Japanese political scientists tended to look down upon Japan, as they tended to think that Japan was an outlier among Western democracies. Toward the end of the century and toward the end of the Cold War, Japanese political scientists began to take a look at Japan from a comparative perspective. Comparative politics was established for the first time in history in the sense that Japan is compared on an equal footing of a sort. Then third wave democratization made steady progress during the last quarter of the last century. Japanese political scientists started to take a closer look at increasingly democratic East and Southeast Asian countries, examining commonalities and differences again on an equal footing of another sort, taking historical and cultural backgrounds into full consideration. This trend is clear if one looks at journals and encyclopedia edited during the last half a century.

Japanese political science has been most bumi putra among the three [Japanese, Korean and Chinese] for two major reasons. First, it has a long history of exposing to and selectively absorbing Western social sciences and thus endogenized much of it already. Second, privileged elites normally do not send their children to universities abroad unless for special purposes. Thus compared to Koreans and Chinese, who are educated, teach and publish their works abroad, Japanese political scientists rarely teach and publish their works abroad because those who do graduate study there most often do not stay until a Ph.D. and return to start teaching at home. Like most returned Korean political scientists, they do not publish much in English once they get back. Do in Rome as Romans do. It remains Leviathan's gang of four, Michio Muramatsu, Hideo Ohtake, Ikuo Kabashima and the author of this paper, who collectively and individually energized Japanese political science in 1975-2000.


4. The Development of Political Science in Korea, 1975-2000

Roh Taewoo's, Kim Young Sam's, Kim Dae Jung's and Roh Moo Hyon's democratic presidencies spanning the period between 1989 and 2003 are in good contrast to the previous military dictatorial presidencies in that academics write much more freely about governments. Prior to that academics tended to focus on political philosophy and security affairs. Why? Because political philosophy is an area in which academics can freely write their beliefs and dreams without being implicated as being anti-government. Because security affairs was mostly about foreign countries, academics can fairly freely write about them without arousing domestic political actors as long as the line pursued by academics were the correct one, so judged by the government. The internal security act which was legislated shortly after 1961 has been in force in 2003 as well without being revised in any fundamental sense. For this reason, for instance, Korea's freedom is rated one notch lower than similar democracies like the Philippines and Thailand in Freedom House's annual report. Nevertheless, the development of political science was remarkable in pre-1989 period as well. Two major factors must be mentioned. First, the tradition of civilian primacy in the Confucian tradition under military dictatorship was important in giving high prestige to academics. Second, a large number of Korean-born academics teaching and publishing in the United States influenced Korean academics at home as well. Some of them came back to Korea. Given the basically insecure country, privileged elites have tended to send and educate their children overwhelmingly in the United States.

Since 1989 the development of political science in Korea has been impressive. The range of subjects dealt with in their works has broadened. Nothing is an inviolatable sanctuary now. At the same time, the subjects that deal with and depict third-wave democracy's malaise have naturally become most popular ones.

Needless to say, there are a vast number of political scientists who keep writing mostly in Korean. Though there are some 600 America Ph.D.s in Korea, most of them start to write mostly in Korean only, once they get their job at home. In tandem with the departure from English publications, the style and flavor as well as content of American political science seems to be reduced considerably. In other words, most of them are endogenized fast. In other words, despite of the appearance of being most heavily Americanized of the three, Korea, China and Japan, Americanization may not be so deep. In 2002 the rule was promulgated by the Ministry of Education to the effect that the frequency of the Social Science Citation Index is one of the important evidence on which the evaluation of academic performance be made. That would further enhance the penetration of American political science. In part responding to the newly introduced rule, journals have been springing up: Journal of East Asian Studies and Journal of Comparative Governance.


5. The Development of Political Science in China, 1975-2000

China has been ruled by the Communist Party since 1949. It has gone through three phases; (1) revolutionary class politics by Mao Zedong, (2) reformist politics initiated by Deng Xiaoping, and (3) all-people-state politics by Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. It is after Deng Xiaoping's reformist politics that Chinese political science has become very interesting. During the 1980s when Secretary Generals Hu Yaopang and Zhao Ziyang executed reformist politics, the development of political science flourished. The so-called Beijing Spring came. During the period the relaxation of human rights restriction was noted. The vigorous reformist politics was waged by academics like Yan Jiaqi and Li Shenzhi.

But more vigorous development came in the 1990s and beyond. The Tiananmen massacre of 1989 might have been part of the global tide of third-wave democratization. It failed in China. But important and interesting is that since around 1992 the economic boom generated by the reformist policy of opening to the world, foreign capital and technology --and ideas and institutions-- have kept pouring into China. As if China has been heading toward third-wave democratization, the topics covered by Chinese political scientists have something to do with democratic politics.

At a glance the penetration of American political science in China has been pervasive. Its vocabulary has been popularized through their academic writings. Its cultural thirst for democratic vocabulary has been very strong. Their thirst for communist vocabulary was very strong in the 1910s through 1930s when the Japanese translation of Western including communist philosophy and social sciences was imported by Chinese young students in Japan and transmitted into Chinese vocabulary. Communism and the communist party, for instance, were first created by Japanese as the kanji (Chinese-idiograph)-based Japanese words. Reinforcing this trend of Americanization are two: education and institutions. Like in Korea, privileged elites keep sending and educating their children in the United States. University institutions have been undergoing through tremendous reforms modeling after famous American institutions. Gigantic institutions modeled after the Kennedy School of Government and Woodrow Wilson Center for Public and International Affairs have been set up at a number of places like Peking and Fudan.

Nevertheless, reading through some of these books does not tell you that China should abandon the Communist Party and communist rule. Instead, either recanting philosophical criticisms of Western style democracy or advising careful and cautious thinking about Western democracy on the basis of empirical conditions China has been placed for long seems to be the way in which American political science vocabulary has been imported en masse. It is not quite "Teacher by Negative Example". It is more like "let us prepare for things that might come to us as well," whether it is solid democracy or fully fledged capitalism. Although guided heavily by American concepts, empirical analysis components tend to be weaker. Introducing Concepts and Methods of American political science may be sometimes better to characterize their importation. Also at times it might be better to characterize their endeavor as their investigation of what's going on in foreign countries through American looking glass. There are substantial books on politics abroad. In surveying political science in China, one cannot disregard those works published by culturally Chinese political scientists teaching abroad or near-abroad.


6. Conclusion

What are the three political sciences in associated democracies in East Asia like when they are examined vis--vis political science in an auto-centric democracy, the United States? Whether it is disaffected, third-wave or fledgling, it is clear that the East Asian democracies have been treading the path of democratic development associated with American democracy. Similarly, the three political sciences have been making associated development with America's auto-centric political science in one way or another. But all this does not necessarily mean that the three East Asian political sciences have been dominated by American political science. Rather empirical realities posing key questions to political scientists, who in turn seek conceptual and methodological guidance to American political science. In Japan why is disaffection with political leaders and institutions so pervasive? In Korea why is anti-Americanism so vehement 15 years after democratic transition? In China why are cadres so distrustful of people and so untransparent and unaccountable? These are some of the key questions that guide their political sciences. Clearly the need to more closely and systematically examine the rise and fall of popular topics in relation to the evolving nature of regime characteristics does exist. Although much remains to be done in this paper, it is most important to see the nature of each political science well grounded in the evolving nature of politics and society with which each political science community is embedded. What is the place and role of American political science in the development of the three East Asian political Sciences? The primary role of American political science is conceptual. American political science gives an initial good guidance to answering the questions. In this sense American political science has been taking a leading role. American political science has been a most auto-centric political science in the sense that it evolves around its own professionally competitive drive and does not care much about what's going on elsewhere but that its conceptual influence often goes beyond its border. In this sense also, American political science has been instrumental in promoting American style democracy abroad.

 Top
TOP BACK HOME
Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications