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Confucian states and learning life: making scholar-officials and social learning a political contestation

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This paper describes how the way the concept of learning is identified and managed in a societal context can provide a crucial clue to explaining how a form of culture as a complex mental organism is constructed and interwoven. Specifically, I argue the point by illustrating that the discourse of Confucianism has fabricated a specific form of learning life as a basic unit of social practice that has modulated the key social structures in Confucian states: it has fabricated the pieces of social webs of order, stratification, and rules and legislations of these states. In this process, the role of the scholar class, specifically scholar-officials, has played a key role in reproducing the mode of social learning, cultural rituals, and mode of politics. The Confucian state was a large-scale metaphorical school, on a different scale to the modern concept of the school as an institution, where the ruler–subordinator relationship was re-framed to that of the teacher–learner. Overall, I reveal in this paper that the notion of a complex social learning system can be a key theoretical framework that sheds new light, not only on the nature of the Confucian states, but also on the discourse of the East/West dichotomy.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea

Publication date: February 1, 2013

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