Social Evolution, Economic Development and Culture
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Social Evolution, Economic Development and Culture

What it Means to Take Japan Seriously

Ronald Dore and D. Hugh Whittaker

Social Evolution, Economic Development and Culture brings together Ronald Dore’s key writings for the first time, making his work accessible across a wide range of social science disciplines. It produces a distinctive perspective with four interlinking themes – technology-driven social evolution, late development, culture and polemics. These are highly topical in the current context of rapid technological innovation and socio-economic change, globalization and accompanying policy choices.
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Chapter 20: Unity and diversity in world culture*

Ronald Dore and D. Hugh Whittaker


Why does culture matter to the student of international order? In what sense does the prospect that the world might be getting more culturally homogeneous (Westernized, modernized) have implications for the possibilities of sustaining an international order? In at least three possible senses. First, there is the view that ‘a’ culture is ‘all of a piece’, is shaped by ‘certain primary structuring ideas’ which determine the ‘general cast’ of the religions, art styles, social structures, and political systems (including relations with outsiders) which that culture can spontaneously create, or can enduringly tolerate if it happens that they are imposed from outside. According to this view, Chinese or Hindu or Islamic cultures are each in their substantive content incapable of integration within a system of international order which has grown out of a different, JudaeoGreco-Roman culture. The obstacles are at two levels. First, at a purely cognitive level, there is not always enough similarity between cultures in their basic ways of conceptualizing ... such Western concepts as ‘contract’, ‘law’, ‘responsibility’, etc. Second, different cultures embody different value-systems and moral injunctions. Other cultures do not place the same relative valuations on order, peace, national (or ethnic, or regional, or ecclesiastical) self-assertion, neighbourly co-operation and so forth, as each other or as the West does. The third sense in which cultural differences affect the possibility of international order has, unlike the other two, nothing much to do with the substantive content of cultures. The rules of order in a society of states - that...

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