[2012] Republicanism in Northeast Asian Context

Republicanism in Northeast Asian Context – Held by Social Science Korea Civic Solidarity Research Group, Korea University – Supported by the National Research Foundation of South Korea & SK Telecom – Grand Conference Room, Research Institute of Korean Studies, Korea University – May 4-5, 2012

I. Theme Statement

A new version of republicanism is appealing to East Asian countries which currently face uncertainty caused by ongoing rapid development. That republicanism is neo-Roman republicanism, which has been conceptualized with the notion of liberty as non-domination by Philip Pettit. This new version of republicanism has inspired not only Western but also East Asian political theorists, providing a prospect that a political ideal of civic solidarity which is once anti-collectivist and anti-atomist can be realized without appealing to the notion of Aristotle’s zoon politikon or without presupposing a set of abstract norms for binding individuals in liberal fashion.

Particularly in Northeast Asian countries, neo-Roman republicanism has played an important role in scholarly inquiries about republicanism and its particular position in an East Asian context. A wide range of scholars as well as activists have recently joined the debate on republicanism, including some communitarian republicans and Social democrats who stress citizen’s allegiance to a set of civic values and the need for active participation in politics; moderate liberals who argue that the recognition of social rights must be compatible with the protection of human rights; and critical theorists who claim that the current trends of neo-liberal competition deepen socio-economic inequality.

However, the general impact of neo-Roman republican ideas in Northeast Asian countries has been less significant than what was originally anticipated by the scholars who first introduced them to this region, for three reasons. First, the notion of liberty as non-domination has not been taken as seriously as it has been in Western countries. For example, in Western countries with Anglo-American and European republican traditions, democratic contestability was presented as a principal way of realizing and promoting non-domination, whereas in the Northeast Asian countries the anti-populist stance of neo-Roman republicanism has been contrasted with the advocacy of active participation in politics. Certainly, neo-Roman republicanism — in which civic engagement is not regarded as something inherently good but is required only for the realization of non-domination — has been criticized as an ‘aristocratic’ version of republicanism. However, this does not mean that neo-Roman republicanism contests the need for empowering people against elite ambitions or the arbitrary will of other persons. Those who are not convinced of the benefits of non-domination are not merely those who speak about the need for checking popular will by ‘aristocratic’ decision-making; they also include pessimistic realists who believe that domination is inevitable and omnipresent.

Secondly, the reconfiguration of the term ‘republic,’ inspired as it was by the introduction of neo-Roman republican ideas in Northeast Asian countries, has been focused on harmony or integration between compatriots in a political community. In South Korea, scholarly debates have been focused on the meanings of ‘republic’ in relation to strong conceptions of community symbolized by the word konghwa (public harmony). On this reading, there seems to be little room for linking non-domination to issues of social justice, such as the problem of sociopolitical and economic welfare arising from the current neo-liberal economic crisis. In Japan, neo-Roman republicanism is a relatively new phenomenon, not only because republicanism has been identified with the idea that a republic is an inherently non-monarchical form of government, but also because non-domination is perceived as something opposed to the norm of ‘kenkyo’ (modesty) in Japanese society. In China, scholarly inquiries into neo-Roman republicanism are dominated by the concept of ‘hexie shehui’ (harmonious society). While neo-Roman republicanism seems to be welcomed by Chinese scholars who wish to find an alternative to liberal democracy, its institutional suggestions for conflict resolution do not seem to have made as much impact as might be needed in Chinese society.
Thirdly, in Northeast Asian countries neo-Roman republicanism has not been recognized as a concept qualitatively different from civic or communitarian republicanism. Since neo-Roman republicanism has been frequently intertwined with attempts to restore harmony in political communities, it has been criticized by liberals as another version of communitarian republicanism. From the perspective of liberals who have been trying to replace the totalistic character of national commonality in Northeast Asian cultures with liberal norms such as the inviolability of natural rights, the revival of republicanism stimulated by the emergence of neo-Roman republicanism appears as a threat that will ultimately reinforce state-imposed homogeneity in the society at the expense of individual autonomy and sociopolitical plurality. Up to now, there have been few, if any, serious efforts to refute the arguments of this criticism in Northeast Asian countries.

On the basis of these considerations, this workshop is aimed at investigating the historical appropriations of republicanism in Northeast Asia and their correlations to the current misperceptions of neo-Roman republicanism in Northeast Asian societies. We will survey the latest theoretical contributions to the studies of republicanism in Western countries and the latest interpretations of how republicanism, including both communitarian republicanism and neo-Roman republicanism, has been appropriated in the Northeast Asian countries. We will also investigate whether liberty as non-domination can be a regulative ideal for non-Western practices in which the moral foundations of liberal democracy, such as moral individualism and value pluralism, do not predominate. We also anticipate a positive contribution to neo-Roman republicanism from the development of this Northeast Asian alternative to liberal democracy.

II. Conference Schedule

  • Conference Day 1, May 4

I. Opening Remark (9:00-9:20 AM)

Gil-Sung PARK, Director of SSK Civic Solidarity Research Group, Professor at the Department of Sociology, Korea University

II. Keynote Speech (9:20-10:40 AM)

Philip PETTIT, Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Value at Princeton University: “Republicanism across Cultures”

III. Session One: Republicanism and Political Theory (11:00-12:40 PM)

Iseult HONOHAN, Senior Lecturer of the School of Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin: “Non-domination, Civic Virtue, and Contestatory Politics”
Cecil LABORDE, Professor of Political Science, University College London: “What is a free state? A Republican Account of International Justice”

IV. Lunch Break (12:40-13:40 PM): Sandwich & Snack will be served.

V. Session Two: Emergence and Historical Appropriation of Republicanism (14:00-15:40 PM)

Koichiro MATSUDA, Professor of Law and Politics, Rikkyo University: “Torn between Universalism & Uniqueness: Hozumi Nobushige’s Republican Patriotism”
Myung Lim PARK, Professor of Area Studies, Yonsei University: Historical Development of Republicanism in Korea: Focusing on Some Peculiarities in Comparison”

VI. Session Three: Place of Republicanism in Contemporary Northeast Asia (16:00-17:40 AM)

Takashi SHOGIMEN, Associate Professor of History and Art History, University of Otago :“Patriotism and Republicanism in Japan: a century ago and today”
Benjamin THOMPSON, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Diplomacy, Kyungpook National University: “Rival Republicanisms; Freedom of Speech and the Korean Public Officials Election Act”

  • Conference Day 2, May 5

VII. Session Four: Civic Solidarity and Republicanism (10:00-11:40 PM)

Leigh JENCO, Assistant Professor of Political Science, National University of Singapore: “What is ‘Republican’ about Republican Chinese Thought(1895-1949)?”
Tadashi KARUBE, Professor of Laws, Tokyo University: “‘Public Discussion’ and Confucianism in the 19th Century Japan”
Jun-Hyeok KWAK, Co-director of the Institute for Values and Ethics, Soongsil University: “Patriotism with/without Non-domination: Republican Patriotism in Northeast Asian Context”