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Asian Modernism

In those areas of the East characterized by rapid economic growth there are new forms of modernism. These have to be seen in relation to the declining dominance of the West in order to understand the difference between their particularistic cultural character and the universalistic evolutionism they embody. On the one hand they have emphasized the moral core of the Confucian order, expressed in Neo-Confucianism, an order that stresses the ethics of the bureaucratic public sphere, an abstract morality, but one extracted from the ideals of the family and elevated to a set of generalized social principles. This has been linked to the notion that the NIC (Newly Industrialized Countries) lands, for example, have some special culture that is conducive to development, and even superior to Western individualism. There have, on the other hand, been numerous discussions of the relation between Confucian developmentalism and Western models. Neo-Confucianist ideology stresses the goals of democracy and rationalist development above practically all else. The particularistic property of this self-conscious programme of modernity is related to its ethnic base in Chinese civilization. There is an interesting logic in this new modernism. It might be argued that the problem with Western mediocrity is that its individualism tends to erode the moral values that render the entire project of modernity a genuine possibility. Such a view would dovetail with [Daniel] Bell’s analysis of the dialectical contradictions of modernity that generate, all by themselves, the postmodern dissipation that has now taken form in the West. In the Eastern model with its weaker, if clearly present, individual, entirely eroded to the project of the group, such disintegration ought not to be possible.

Lash, S. & Friedman, J. (Eds.). (1993). Modernity & Identity. Massachusetts: Blackwell, pg. 356


Media Ecology in the East & West

Efei Wang has recently published an excellent post summarizing the differences between the Asian and North American schooling systems. The difficulty level of Chinese schooling has risen dramatically: Chinese elementary school students are taught algebra, science, and literature; calculus is an opening high school math course in China, whereas in North America calculus is not taught until grade twelve; in short, North American education is quite obviously inferior to that of Asia. The disparities between the two continents are eerily dramatic, and undoubtedly fuel the paranoia of those who suspect that the era of American world supremacy is drawing to a close. The following is a brief summary of how North American students’ seeming inferiority may disguise significant assets of North American habitus which will likely contribute to the persistence of American hegemony.

Marshall McLuhan was an extremely influential media ecologist in the mid-20th century. He noticed that since the popularization of the television, a distinct break could be noticed in people’s patterns of thought (patterns which were shaped by the predominating “sense ratios”). He also (controversially) denied the importance of content, in favor of the nature of the medium itself. He came to separate ‘print culture’ (marked by its intensification of the visual sense, which led to modes of thinking focusing upon uniformity, linearity, and breaking things into their component parts) from ‘audial-tactile’ culture (marked by nonlinearity, mulitiplicity, and emphasis upon difference).

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