From Democracy to Welfare State: The Evolution of a Cultural Theme in Korean Social Movements

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Hörsaal 26 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Jin-Wook SHIN, Chung-Ang University, South Korea
Social movements are not only reactions to social problems by means of collective behavior, but often are creators of new ideas, symbols, and imaginations about a different world. Prior literature about the cycles of protests have shown that the peak events in historical protest waves are characterized by the birth of new sets of discourses, and that such initial symbolic creations are elaborated by the spin-off movements into more concrete programs of change. Focusing on such cultural dynamics of social movements, this paper investigates the symbolic roots and transformation processes of the “welfare state movements” in Korean social movements. Unlike in many European countries, the welfare institutions in Korea have been meager until the democratic transition in 1987 and, in the absence of solid power resources of the working class, the agencies and cultural resources of the development of welfare state have been different from those in Europe. In Korea, the leading actors have been progressive NGOs and SMOs, while the role of the labor unions has been limited. Therefore, the analysis of the practices of signification and the discursive reservoirs in Korean social movement will help deepening our understanding of the particular cultural dynamics of the welfare state development in non-European regions. For this aim, this paper will try to reconstruct interpretively, first, the process of the transformation of the cultural resources inherited by the former pro-“democracy” movements into the civil republican ideas of the “public” in the protest actions of the late 2000s and, secondly, their programmatic specification in the discourses and policy projects toward a “welfare state” after the late 2000s through the 2010s. Methodologically, this study will conduct a discourse-historical analysis with a focus on the analysis of the inter-institutional (synchronic) and inter-generational (diachronic) dynamics of intertextuality and interdiscursivity.