The Differentiation of the Literati-Gentry and the Reception of Citizenship Idea: A Cultural Sociology with Cultural Pragmatics and Social Performance

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 08:45
Oral Presentation
Po-Fang TSAI, Taipei Medical University, Taiwan
This paper adopts Jeffrey Alexander’s cultural sociological approach—the concept of cultural pragmatics and social performance—to investigate how the differentiation of the literati-gentry influence the reception of citizenship idea in modern China. During the 1890s to the 1920s, it was the first time that citizenship, a Western idea, was imported into Chinese society in which the literati-gentry played as the main carrier strata of this reception process. Nevertheless, during those decades, Chinese society went through a crucial change named “the rise and fall of gentry-power”—a shift in public opinion from “revive gentry’s power in order to establish citizen rights” to “fight against corrupted gentry’s power in order to protect citizen rights”. It is not merely a historical event but also a sociological puzzle: how and why did “the rise and fall of gentry-power” and the reception of citizenship idea co-occur. The literati-gentry was divided into different sub-types—rural gentry, merchant gentry, and militant gentry—who played their respective roles superseding the literati-gentry’s place in the reception of citizenship idea. Meanwhile, the literati-gentry gradually faded out from the stage of modern Chinese history since the internal differentiation happened, but crucially initiated the reception by playing a “pre-citizen” role, a forerunner of modern citizen in Chinese society. Synthesizing the analytic framework from citizenship scholar E. F. Isin and cultural sociologist J. C. Alexander, this paper views the reception of citizenship as a kind of “social performance”, employs the cultural pragmatics approach to re-describe both the conceptual and institutional scholarships in the field of modern Chinese history, and analyses how the differentiation of the literati-gentry, including the three main sub-types and the various interactions between them and the popular, influences the reception of citizenship idea in Chinese society during the late Qing dynasty and the early Republican period.