Office hours: Thursdays 11.00-13.00 or by appointment.
Lecturer: Indrė Balčaitė
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Department of International Relations and European Studies
Office: Vigyázó Ferenc u. 2, Room 218
Course description and objectives:
This course is a short introduction into the vast body of political thought originating in East, South and Southeast Asia. Defined in this way, Asian political thought has tapped the rich traditions associated with Confucian, Taoist, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim worldviews. However, it has also been an arena for debating and interpreting ideologies originating outside the region, such as nationalism, Marxism or liberalism. At the same time, Asian political thought itself has provided a rich source of inspiration to authors, thinkers and practitioners worldwide, especially those of the Age of Enlightenment and postmodernism.
This course is not confined to the ancient political theories before the times of intense exchanges. Neither is it confined to the study of ideas isolated from their interaction with political realities. In fact, the study of Asian political thought illuminates regional political realities. The backdrop of ideas popular at the time helps to more adequately understand the processes of state formation, regional power dynamics, nationalism, Communism and postcolonialism.
The course depicts Asian political thought in conversation with political theories popular in the West and tackling the universally relevant questions of self, society, power, politics, nation-state and modernity. The course is organised around these questions, addressed through several dimensions wherever possible: arguments and commentary, original sources to contemporary interpretations and adaptations as well as theory and practice.
The course consists of two parts. The first part is focused on the pre-colonial political thought. The introductory lecture deliberates the suitable lens for studying Asian political thought, the premises under which it can be considered ‘philosophy’ and its relationship to the European-original political thought. The course then proceeds with the building block of political theories and the source of difference from Western political thinking – the perception of self. Going up the ladder of abstraction, two further sessions debate the normative order of relationships among the selves, juxtaposing the view that hierarchy is a primordial characteristic of the human society and the position that hierarchy is contingent upon specific relationships rather than on inherent differences of individuals. The final two sessions tackle the concepts of power and rule.
The second part moves into the modern era and the terrain of international politics marked with Eurocentrism. It starts with a lecture on colonialism that forced the Asian and European traditions of conceptualising politics into an intense and continuing encounter. Later sections consider nation-building in a postcolonial setting, Asian Communisms as one possible route and Japan’s attempt at offering an alternative to Western modernity. Another session considers the contribution of postcolonialism literature by Asian authors in tackling the global hierarchies of race and gender. The concluding session returns to the question of how to engage in comparative political thought across traditions without reifying their boundaries.
Generic skills: successful completion of the course should enhance the students’
independent critical thinking ability;
analytical thinking – the ability to discern, summarise, compare and debate complex theoretical arguments;
academic writing skills.
Course-specific learning outcomes: by the end of the course, students are expected to have grasped:
the richness and complexity of Asian political thought;
its ties to religious traditions influential in Asia;
its influence on major historical political developments in Asia;
the reasons why Asian societies have been portrayed as hierarchic, collectivist and under despotic rule;
the reasons why such portrayals have missed important aspects of political life;
the main points of exchanges and debate with European-origin political ideas;
the contemporary relevance of Asian-origin political ideas.
Course-specific skills: by the end of the course, students are expected to have gained:
the ability to discuss and use the concepts learned;
the ability to compare and engage in a dialogue within and between the bodies of thought analysed.
The course combines lecturing and class discussions based on the prescribed readings. The sessions take place once a week. Apart from introductions and clarifications, the sessions are organized in a seminar form, with participants discussing the questions raised on the basis of the texts. Group work tasks and occasional succinct presentations can be assigned to facilitate discussions.
Course assessment is based on participation in class discussions (40% of the overall mark) and written assignments (60% of the overall mark). At 2-3 occasions, general class discussions will be animated by organising role plays where students or groups of students will be responsible for arguing in the name of a prescribed strand of thought or author in a particular situation.
Two papers limited to 1,500 words each should be submitted over the e-learning platform (http://ceulearning.ceu.hu):
the first one by Monday February 22nd midnight;
the second one by Monday March 28th midnight.
They should offer a succinct exploration of a specific problem and be by no means descriptive. They should have a clear introduction outlining the problem to be discussed, a well-structured and signposted body of the text elaborating the argument point by point and clear conclusions summarising the findings. Because of the limited length of the papers, the problem should be very clearly delineated. Polemic comparisons between the stances that different Asian bodies of ideas or an Asian and a Western political theory take on a particular aspect are welcome. Students can choose the topics for their papers but trey have to be approved by the lecturer. Students will receive written feedback on their papers and are welcome to discuss their preparation and results during consultations.
Attendance is marked. Absences should be explained as unexcused absences affect the course mark. Please refer to the MA handbook for details.
The lack of sources is a potential problem for this course. The core readings that students have to study for each session will be uploaded onto the e-learning site before the start of the course. Additional ones – or more in-depth study, written assignments or collaborative work – may be added throughout the duration of the course. When facing issues locating additional sources, students should not hesitate to contact the lecturer for solutions.
Paige Johnson Tan, 2016. Routledge Handbook of Asian Political Thought. Routledge.
Thomas P. Kasulis, 2002. Intimacy or Integrity: Philosophy and Cultural Difference. The 1998 Gilbert Ryle Lectures. Honolulu: University of Hawai’I Press.
J. J. Clark, 1997. Oriental Enlightenment: The Encounter between Asian and Western Thought. London: Routledge.
Course Outline and the Reading List
1. Introduction: setting the scene (lecture)
What counts as ‘Asian Political Thought’?
What is its relationship to ‘Western’ Political Thought?
What are the uses and dangers of such classifications?
Timothy J. Lomperis, 2011. ‘Asian Political Thought.’ In John T. Ishiyama and Marijke Brenning (eds.), 21st Century Political Science: A Reference Handbook. Vol. 2. 21st Century Reference Series. Thousand Oakes, London, New Delhi, Singapore: Sage Publications, pp. 560-576.
Rein Raud, 2006. ‘Philosophies versus Philosophy: In Defense of a Flexible Definition.’ Philosophy East and West. Vol. 56, No. 4 (October), pp. 618-625.
Rein Raud, 2014. ‘What is Japanese about Japanese Philosophy?’ In Janhui Liu and Mayuko Sano (eds.), Rethinking “Japanese Studies” from Practices in the Nordic Region. Kyoto: International Research Center for Japanese Studies, pp. 15-27. Available at: http://publications.nichibun.ac.jp/region/d/NSH/series/symp/2014-03-31/s001/s008/pdf/article.pdf [Accessed 12-11-2015]
Edward W. Said, 1979. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books.
Frank R. Ankersmit, 1996. Aesthethic Politics: Political Philosophy Beyond Fact and Value. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
2. (No-)Self and Other
What is in common among Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian conceptions of self?
What are the differences between these conceptions?
What are the arguments underlying these conceptions?
What understanding of human life and of social relationships do they imply?
Anatta-lakkhana Sutta: Discourse on the Not-self Characteristic (a.k.a. Pañcavaggi Sutta: Five Brethren) (SN 22.59). Access to Insight (ed.), Index of Suttas. 30th November 2013.http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.059.nymo.html[Accessed 16-11-2015]
The contents of this discourse is explicated in a short audio recording: Kongpop U-Yen, 2014. Understanding the concept of non-self in Buddhism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXUKkD3Bi14[Accessed 16-11-2015]
Lao-tzu, 1993. Tao Te Ching. Introduced by Burton Watson. Translated by Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co., pp. 7, 13, 16, 19, 22, 33, 37, 54 (in other editions these may appear as numbers of respective chapters).
Donald J. Munro, 1969. The Concept of Man in Early China. Stanford: Stanford University Press, pp. 49-83, 117-139 (Chapters 3 and 5).
David Galin, 2003. ‘The Concepts of “Self”, “Person” and “I” in Western Psychology and in Buddhism.’ In B. Alan Wallace (ed.), Buddhism and Science: Breaking New Ground. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 107-142.
Mark A. Berkson, 2005. ‘Conceptions of Self/No-Self and Modes of Connection: Comparative Soteriological Structures in Classical Chinese Thought.’ Journal of Religious Ethics, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 293–331.
Melford Spiro, 1982. Buddhism and Society: A Great Tradition and Its Burmese Vicissitudes. Buddhism and Society: A Great Tradition and Its Burmese Vicissitudes. 2nd expanded ed. Berkeley, London: University of California Press, pp. 84-90.
Attakārī Sutta: The Self-Doer (AN 6.38). Access to Insight (ed.), Index of Suttas. 30th November 2013. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an06/an06.038.niza.html [Accessed 16-11-2015]
3. Society: a hierarchical view
What is in common between the Dharmasastric and Confucian conceptions of society?
What is the difference between the hierarchy implied by the concepts of varnas (castes) on the one hand and the filial piety on the other?
What is the reasoning underlying such hierarchy?
Patrick Olivelle and Suman Olivelle, 2005. Manu's code of law: a critical edition and translation of the Manava-Dharmasastra. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 87-93, 124-5, 138-139, 146-147.
A. T. Nuyen, 2004. ‘The Contemporary Relevance of the Confucian Idea of Filial Piety.’ Journal of Chinese Philosophy. Vol. 31, pp. 433–450.
Patrick Olivelle, 2013. King, governance, and law in ancient India: Kauṭilya's Arthaśāstra. New York: Oxford University Press.
Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah, 1976. World Conqueror and World Renouncer: A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand against a Historical Background. Cambridge Studies in Social Anthropology 15. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 19-31 (Chapter 3).
4. Society: a social contingency view
What is the relationship between the Buddhist and Brahmanic (Dharmasastric) perspective of society?
How is it related to the respective conceptions of self?
What is the relationship between the mundane hierarchies and the hierarchies of merit in Buddhist and Brahmanic perspective?
How conducive to change does that make each perspective?
Thomas William Rhys Davids, 2000. Dialogues of the Buddha: translated from the Pali of the Dīgha Nikāya. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. Vol. 3. 1st Indian ed., pp. 77-94 (Agganna Sutta).
Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah, 1976. World Conqueror and World Renouncer: A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand against a Historical Background. Cambridge Studies in Social Anthropology 15. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 9-18 (Chapter 2).
Lao-tzu, 1993. Tao Te Ching. Introduced by Burton Watson. Translated by Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co.
5. Rites of power: accumulation and channeling
Is the Hindu-Buddhist conception of power primarily concerned with gaining or exercise of power?
How is power gained and exercised?
Is ‘political’ power distinguishable from ‘religious’ power?
What kind of political unit does such conception of power imply?
Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, 1972. ‘The Idea of Power in Javanese Culture.’ In Claire Holt (ed.), Culture and Politics in Indonesia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp. 1-69.
O. W. Wolters, 1999. History, Culture, and Region in Southeast Asian Perspectives. Rev. ed. Studies on Southeast Asia Series No. 26. Ithaca: Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University.
Guillaume Rozenberg, 2010. Renunciation and Power: The Quest for Sainthood in Contemporary Burma. Yale Southeast Asia Studies Monograph No. 59. New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies.
Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, 1942. Spiritual authority and temporal power in the Indian theory of government. New Haven: American Oriental Society.
G. P. Singh, 1993. Political Thought in Ancient India: Emergence of the State, Evolution of Kingship, and Inter-State Relations based on the Saptāṅga Theory of State. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld.
Shelly Errington, 1989. Meaning and Power in a Southeast Asian Realm. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
6. Kingship and statecraft: politics in war and peace
What is the founding principle of society?
Can pre-colonial political units be called ‘states’?
How were the relationships among them governed?
What does such a system tell us about the relationship between political thought and practice?
Thomas William Rhys Davids, 2000. Dialogues of the Buddha: translated from the Pali of the Dīgha Nikāya. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. Vol. 3. 1st Indian ed., pp. 53-76 (Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutta).
Clifford Geertz, 1980. Negara: The Theatre State in Nineteenth Century Bali. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 98-121 (Chapter 4).
Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah, 1976. World Conqueror and World Renouncer: A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand against a Historical Background. Cambridge Studies in Social Anthropology 15. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 102-158 (Chapters 7-8).
Patrick Olivelle and Suman Olivelle, 2005. Manu's code of law: a critical edition and translation of the Manava-Dharmasastra. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 154-166 (Chapter 7).
Robert Heine-Geldern, 1942. ‘Conceptions of State and Kingship in Southeast Asia’. The Far Eastern Quarterly. Vol. 2, No. 1 (November), pp. 15-30.
I. W. Mabbett, 1969. ‘Devarāja’. Journal of Southeast Asian History. Vol. 10, No. 2 (September), pp. 202-223.
Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah, 1987. The Buddhist Conception of Universal King and Its Manifestations in South and Southeast Asia. Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya.
Soemarsaid Moertono, 1981. State and statecraft in old Java: a study of the later Mataram period, 16th to 19th century. Modern Indonesia project Monograph series No. 43. Rev. ed. Ithaca: Cornell University.
Trevor Ling, 1979. Buddhism, Imperialism and War: Burma and Thailand in Modern History. London: Allen and Unwin.
7. Colonial transformations(mid-term recap and lecture)
What tensions exist between the pre-colonial and colonial conceptions of a political unit?
How do they relate to political practice?
What changes of political practice were needed in order to bring it in line with the new conceptions?
Were the changes smooth and uncontested? Were they complete?
Benedict Anderson, 1998. The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia and the World. London, New York: Verso, pp. 29-74.
Thongchai Winichakul, 1994. Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, pp. 37-80.
Carol Gluck, 1985. Japan's Modern Myths: Ideology in the Late Meiji Period. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 42-72.
8. The geo-body and difference: struggling for borders
What did the refashioning of Asia into a patchwork of bounded states mean for group identities?
What was needed to make these bounded states into nation-states?
How did that shape anti-colonial struggles?
Bidyut Chakrabarty and Rajendra Kumar Pandey, 2009. Modern Indian Political Thought: Text and Context. New Delhi: SAGE Publications.
Anthony J. Parel, 2008. Lessons from South Asian Political Thought. James Madison University Gandhi Center Working Paper No. 4 (February 4). Available at: http://www.jmu.edu/gandhicenter/wm_library/workingpaper4.pdf [Accessed 12-11-2015]
David Streckfuss, 1993. ‘The Mixed Colonial Legacy in Siam: Origins of Thai Racialist Thought, 1890-1910.’ In Laurie Jo Sears (ed.), Autonomous Histories, Particular Truths: Essays in Honor of John R.W. Smail. Madison: University of Wisconsin, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 123–53.
Thongchai Winichakul, 1994. Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
9. Whose modernity? Looking for a place in the world
What characteristics of Nishida’s philosophy are ‘Asian’?
In what sense is it ‘modern’?
Why did it serve the interests of Japanese nationalist government?
Did the Japanese alternative of a world order challenge the principles of the imperialist world order?
Nishida Kitaro, 2012. ‘Basho.’ In Place and Dialectic: Two Essays by Kitarō Nishida. Translated by John W. M. Krummel and Shigenori Nagatomo. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 49-102.
Yoko Arisaka, 1999. ‘Beyond “East and West”: Nishida’s Universalism and Postcolonial Critique.’ In Fred R. Dallmayr (ed.). Border Crossings: Toward a Comparative Political Theory. Lanham: Lexington Books, pp. 237-252.
Rein Raud, 2007. ‘A Comparative Analysis of Challenge Discourses: ‘Overcoming Modernity’ and the ‘Asian Values’ Debate.’ In Rein Raud (ed.), Japan and Asian Modernities. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 167-182.
Christopher S. Goto-Jones, 2005. Political Philosophy in Japan: Nishida, the Kyoto School and Co-Prosperity. Routledge.
Carol Gluck, 1985. Japan's Modern Myths: Ideology in the Late Meiji Period. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Rober Bellah, 1985. Tokugawa Religion: The Cultural Roots of Modern Japan. The Free Press.
10. Local imports: nationalist Communisms or Communist nationalisms
What changes did Marxism attain in Asian settings?
Why did it become the ideology of anti-imperial struggles?
Why did it split rather than united the Asian continent?
Brantly Womack, 2010. ‘From urban radical to rural revolutionary: Mao from the 1920s to 1937.’ In Timothy Cheek (ed.), A Critical Introduction to Mao. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 61-86.
Stuart Reynolds Schram, 1997. Mao's Road to Power: Revolutionary writings, 1912-1949. East Gate Book Series. Armonk: M.E.Sharpe.
Ho Chi Minh, 2011. The Selected Works of Ho Chi Minh. New York: Prism Key Press, pp. 7-10.
D. R. SarDesai (ed.), 2006. Southeast Asian History: Essential Readings. Boulder: Westview Press, pp. 145-152.
The Burma Socialist Programme Party, 1963. The system of correlation of man and his environment: the philosophy of the Burma Socialist Programme Party. Rangoon: The Burma Socialist Programme Party.
Ian Harris, 2010. ‘Rethinking Cambodian Political Discourse on Territory: Genealogy of the Buddhist Ritual Boundary (sīmā).’ Journal of Southeast Asian Studies Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 215–39.
11. Postcolonialism and post-Eurocentrism
What are the supra-state structures of hegemony?
What social hierarchies do they underpin?
How do these structures shape selves?
How do they impact the representation of marginal groups?
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, 1999. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present. Cambridge, London: Harvard University Press, 198-311.
Hwa Yol Jung, 1999. ‘Postmodernity, Eurocentrism, and the Future of Political Philosophy.’ In Fred R. Dallmayr (ed.). Border Crossings: Toward a Comparative Political Theory. Lanham: Lexington Books, pp. 237-252.
Can we still speak of ‘Asian’ political thought? Confucian or Buddhist political thought?
Why study ancient political thought?
How do we pursue Comparative Political Thought without reifying difference?
Why should the study of ideas retain an awareness of the political practice?
Andrew F. March, 2009. ‘What Is Comparative Political Theory?’ The Review of Politics. Vol. 71, No. 4 (September), pp. 531-565.
Joseph Chan, 2014. Confucian Perfectionism: A Political Philosophy for Modern Times. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, pp. 131-159 (Chapter 6).
Clifford Geertz, 1972. ‘Afterword: The Politics of Meaning.’ In Claire Holt (ed.), Culture and Politics in Indonesia. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, pp. 319–35.
Clifford Geertz, 1980. Negara: The Theatre State in Nineteenth Century Bali. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 121-136 (Conclusion).
Deborah E. Tooker, 1996. ‘Putting the Mandala in Its Place: A Practice-Based Approach to the Spatialization of Power on the Southeast Asian “Periphery” - the Case of the Akha’. Journal of Asian Studies Vol. 55, No. 2 (May), pp. 323–58.
** This session may need to be rescheduled because of lecturer’s absence.