A Special Way of Modernization (“Sonderweg”) or Methodological Cosmopolitanism?

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 6:30 PM
Room: 304
Oral Presentation
Chan-Sook HONG , Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea
Since the IMF crisis of 1997, Beck and Beck-Gernsheim’s “individualization thesis” has attracted much academic attention in Korea, for it was seen to explain the important social symptoms that have already manifested on the peninsula in the early 90s. An important feature of the discourse on individualization in Korea is its intensive focus on the transformation of family forms. Unlike the original German approach of “individualization thesis” as a critique on researches of social inequalities, Korean academic analyses, when employing the same model, are limited to areas of gender and family.

     Another important feature of the discourse is Beck’s “methodological cosmopolitanism”. Beck and his Asian colleagues seem to consider the values and institutions of strong Confucian family as unique characteristics of the Asian path to modernization. This is one important reason why in Korea discussions on individualization are exclusively concentrated in areas of gender and family.

     Industrialization developed in Germany significantly later than in other Western European countries, and for many decades thereafter, the country’s path to modernization was considered as a special way (“Sonderweg”). Beck’s individualization theory, however, aims to explain Germany’s modernization as a typical process of Western development.

     With the above introduction in mind, I propose to investigate the historical context between “Sonderweg” and the methodological cosmopolitanism of Beck as an initial step necessary for the analysis of the special ways of Asian modernization. I will proceed to make a further comparison between Germany’s Sonderweg and Korea’s path of modernization as a mean to evaluate Beck’s methodological cosmopolitanism, and the implication this has for Korean sociology.