Western References in Asian Social Sciences (Japan and South Korea)

  • Thomas Brisson
  • Laurent Jeanpierre
  • Kil-Ho Lee
Part of the Socio-Historical Studies of the Social and Human Sciences book series (SHSSHS)


This paper analyses how the social sciences, especially sociology, an outcome of Western modernity, have been implemented in East Asia. To do so, it tackles two case studies, Japan and South Korea. Theoretically, the paper is premised on two main influences. It offers, first, a discussion of the notions of centre and (semi-)periphery in the scientific world-system, drawing and adapting the concepts of Immanuel Wallerstein in order to gain a better understanding of the asymmetries that shape the production and circulation of social sciences. Secondly, it shows that Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of field can be useful to grasp the positions of the Japanese and Korean disciplines and scholars who have been instrumental in the reception of Western social sciences. In terms of empirical results, the paper shows the paradoxical discrepancy between the influence of the American academic field in East Asia (with many Korean and, to a lesser extent, Japanese scholars having been trained in North America) and the continuing supremacy of European theoretical references. This leads us to reassess how social sciences can be variously embedded into global power relations and to sharply distinguish the circulation of orthodox and critical social sciences.


Asia Japan South Korea (Semi-) periphery Circulation and De-westernization of social sciences Scientific world system 


  1. Alatas, Syed Farid. 2003. Academic Dependency and the Global Division of Labour in the Social Sciences. Current Sociology 51 (6): 599–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. ———. 2006. Alternative Discourses in Asian Social Science. Responses to Eurocentrism. New Delhi: Sage Publication India.Google Scholar
  3. Aydin, Cemil. 2007. The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia: Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought. New York: Columbia University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barshay, Andrew E. 2007. The Social Sciences in Modern Japan: The Marxian and Modernist Traditions. Berkeley/London: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. Befu, Harumi, and Sylvie Guichard-Anguis. 2001. Globalizing Japan: Ethnography of the Japanese Presence in Asia, Europe and America. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Beigel, Fernanda, ed. 2010. Autonomía y dependencia académica. Universidad e investigación científica en un circuito periférico: Chile y Argentina (1950–1980). Buenos Aires: Editorial Biblos.Google Scholar
  7. Bellah, Robert N. 2003. Imagining Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bennett, Karen, ed. 2014. The Semiperiphery of Academic Writing: Discourses, Communities and Practices. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  9. Berger, Mark T. 2003. The Battle for Asia: From Decolonization to Globalization. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1999. The Social Conditions of the International Circulation of Ideas. In Bourdieu: A Critical Reader, ed. Richard Shusterman, 220–228. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
  11. Canagarajah, Suresh A. 2002. A Geopolitics of Academic Writing. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chang, Kyung-Sup. 2014. Asianization of Asia: Asia’s Integrative Ascendance Through a European Aperture. European Societies 16 (1): 337–342.Google Scholar
  13. Cho, Hee-Yoen. 2006. Universality Between Us. The New Trial for a Korean Identity of Scientific Studies. Seoul: Hanul (in Korean).Google Scholar
  14. Choi, Ik-Hyeon. 2015. Competition in the Global Intellectual Field Essential to Overcoming Dependency on Western Academia. Korea Journal 55 (2): 176–189.Google Scholar
  15. Cusset, François. 2008. French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, and Co. Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  16. De Swaan, Abram. 1998. Pour une sociologie de la société transnationale. Revue de Synthèse 4 (1): 89–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gilman, Nils. 2007. Mandarins of the Future – Modernization Theory in Cold War America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Gingras, Yves, and Sébastien Mosbah-Natanson. 2010. Where Are the Social Sciences Produced? In World Social Science Report, 149–153. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  19. Giraudou, Isabelle. 2009. L’assistance juridique japonaise aux pays dits ‘émergents’ d’Asie. Contribution à l’approche pluraliste de la circulation du droit. Transcontinentales 7: 47–67.Google Scholar
  20. Han, Joon, and Kim, Soohan. 2017. How Rankings Change Universities and Academic Fields in Korea. Korean Journal of Sociology 51 (1): 1–37. (in Korean).Google Scholar
  21. Harootunian, Harry. 2000. History’s Disquiet: Modernity, Cultural Practice, and the Question of Everyday Life. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Heilbron, Johan, Lars Magnusson, and Björn Wittrock. 1998. The Rise of the Social Sciences and the Formation of Modernity: Conceptual Change in Context, 1750–1850. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. ———. 2001. Échanges culturels transnationaux et mondialisation. Quelques réflexions. Regards Sociologiques 22: 141–154.Google Scholar
  24. Heilbron, Johan, Nicolas Guilhot, and Laurent Jeanpierre. 2008. Toward a Transnational History of the Social Sciences. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 44 (2): 146–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hiraishi, Nao’aki. 2003. The Formation of Maruyama Masao’s Image of Japanese Intellectual History During the War Period. Social Science Japan Journal 6 (2): 241–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Inaga, Shigemi. 2013. Japanese Philosophers Go West: The Effects of Maritime Trips on Philosophy in Japan with Special References to the Case of Watsuji Tetsurō (1889–1960). Japan Review 25: 113–144.Google Scholar
  27. Keim, Wiebke. 2010. Aspects problématiques des relations internationales en sciences sociales: pour un modèle centre-périphérie. Revue d’Anthropologie des Connaissances 4 (3): 570–598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kersten, Rikki. 2009. The Intellectual Culture of Postwar Japan and the 1968–1969 University of Tokyo Struggles: Repositioning the Self in Postwar Thought. Social Science Japan Journal 12 (2): 227–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kim, Kyong-Dong. 2007. Alternative Discourses in Korean Sociology: The Limits of Indigenization. Asian Journal of Social Science 35: 242–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kim, Jae-Woo. 2009. The Structural Change of Korean Sociological Academic Community. Korean Journal of Sociology 43 (6): 45–72.Google Scholar
  31. Kim, Jong-Young. 2015a. Dominated Dominators: U.S. Degrees and the Birth of Korean Elites. Seoul: Dolbegae. (in Korean).Google Scholar
  32. Kim, Kyung-Man. 2015b. The Global Intellectual Field and Symbolic Violence: A Reflexive Overview of Korean Social Sciences. Seoul: Munhakdongnae. (in Korean).Google Scholar
  33. Kim, Sung-Eun. 2015c. Specialization and Popularization of Korean Social Sciences. PhD Thesis in Sociology, Seoul, Seoul National University.Google Scholar
  34. Kunitake, Kume. 2009. Japan Rising: The Iwakura Embassy to the USA and Europe. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lee, Su-Hoon. 2000. The Rise of East Asia and East Asian Social Science’s Quest for Self-Identity. Journal of World-System Research, Special Issue: Festschrift for Immanuel Wallerstein 4 (3): 768–783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lie, John. 1996. Modernization Theory and Marxism. Current Sociology 44 (1): 14–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Marx Ferree, Myra, and Aili Mari Tripp. 2006. Global Feminism. New York: NYU Press.Google Scholar
  38. Mizuno, Hiromi. 2010. Science for the Empire: Scientific Nationalism in Modern Japan. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Moore, Aaron Stephen. 2013. Constructing East Asia: Technology, Ideology and Empire in Japan’s Wartime Era (1931–1945). Stanford: Stanford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Palat, Ravi. 1993. Pacific-Asia and the Future of the World-System. Westport: Praeger.Google Scholar
  41. Park, Myoung-Kyu, and Kyung-Sup Chiang. 1999. Sociology Between Western Theory and Korean Reality. Accommodation, Tension and a Search for Alternatives. International Sociology 14 (2): 139–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pletsch, Carl. 1981. The Three Worlds, or the Division of Social Scientific Labor, Circa 1950–1975. Comparative Studies in Society and History 23 (4): 565–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Roussillon, Alain. 2005. Identité et modernité: les voyageurs égyptiens au Japon. Arles: Actes Sud.Google Scholar
  44. Sasaki, Masamichi. 2011. La sociologie asiatique à l’ère de la mondialisation. La situation au Japon, en Chine et en Corée. Ebisu 45: 55–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Shin, Kwang-Yeong. 2007. Globalization and the National Social Science in the Discourse on the SSCI in South Korea. Korea Journal of Social Science 34: 93–116.Google Scholar
  46. Shin, Kwang-Yeong, and Han, Sang-Jin. 2010. Internationalization of the Social Sciences in Korea. In Internationalization of the Social Sciences, ed. Michael Kuhn and Doris Weideman, 67–86. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.Google Scholar
  47. Usui, Chikako. 2006. Asian Sociology. In 21st Century Sociology: A Reference Handbook, ed. Dennis L. Peck and Clifton T. Bryan, 60–68. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  48. Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1979. The Capitalist World-Economy: Essays. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Wallerstein, Immanuel, et al. 1996. Open the Social Sciences: Report of the Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Warczok, Tomasz, and Tomasz Zarycki. 2014. Bourdieu Recontextualized: Redefinitions of Western Critical Thought in the Periphery. Current Sociology 62 (3): 334–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Yim, Dae-Sik. 1998. US Aid to Korean Education in the 1950s and the Formation of Pro-American Elites. In Choice and Distortion of the Two Koreas in the 1950s, ed. The Institute for Korean Historical Studies, 128–185. Seoul: Yeoksabipyeongsa. (in Korean).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Brisson
    • 1
  • Laurent Jeanpierre
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kil-Ho Lee
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Département de science politiqueUniversité Paris 8Saint-DenisFrance
  2. 2.Centre de recherches sociologiques et politiques de Paris, CNRS, Université Paris 8 Saint-DenisUniversité Paris NanterreParisFrance
  3. 3.Institut des Sciences Sociales du Politique (ISP)Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense Maison Max weber – ISPNanterre CedexFrance
  4. 4.Université Paris NanterreNanterre CedexFrance

Personalised recommendations