The Asian Values Debates

 


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The process of globalization overwhelms practically the whole modern world including not only well-developed post-industrial countries but developing countries as well. This process influences all aspects of human everyday life and it has already overcome only economical side of our reality. It is evident that nowadays not only economies of different countries change but also we observe a significant shift in their politics and their traditional way of life. As a result of economical and, consequently, cultural interaction between countries and even civilizations many developing as well as developed countries begin to lose their national identity and local color. Naturally, the problem of preserving of national culture and local traditional values arises because many researchers indicates that more and more countries become Westernized regardless their traditions and values. A very serious discussion is hold over the relations between the Western and Eastern or Asian civilizations. The latter is considered to be influenced by Western culture and Western set of values and some Asian countries begin to lose their traditional culture and values. But, as many specialists point out, it was a specific Asian values and traditions that provided many Asian countries so rapid economical growth which was later called ‘Asian Miracle’. However, nowadays, on analyzing the causes of a recent economical crisis that involved practically all countries of the region and even influenced other countries of the world, specialists become more pessimistic about the effectiveness of traditional Asian values in new conditions of globalization while others, on the contrary, estimate that it is exactly the lose of Asian cultural identity caused economical and social crisis.

In my work I’m going to analyze thoroughly who is right and who is not. I will also try to find out what Asian values are and the degree of Western traditions and culture on Asian civilization. From the very beginning it is necessary to emphasize that the start of Asian values debates practically coincide with a rapid economical growth of Asian countries accompanied by equally rapid penetration of the Western values on the East. Therefore, so called ‘Asian Miracle’ resulted not only in a relative economical prosperity but also in the shift in a traditional local set of values and engendered attempts to preserve the latter. However, it is still under the question what should be considered as particularly Asian values, consequently this term should be précised. Also it seems to me obvious that the Asian values debates are mainly built on the contradiction between West and East. Basically, the debates are focused on the following: a) the definition of the notion of ‘Asian values’; b) the opposition of Western and Asian values and their similarity; c) a contemporary realization of traditional Asian values; d) the relation of Asian values to human rights and existing contradiction between these notions; e) Asian values as a part of Asian way of life and f) prospective relations between West and East and Asian values.

First of all, I would like to start with my attempts to precise the notion of ‘Asian values’. Unlike Western values, for Asians the society or local community and the state are more important than a separate individual. At the same time the state and society in response must take care and respect an individual. Paternal relations are basic and family is the basis of the state. Also traditional Asian values presuppose to avoid conflicts to preserve order in the society and in the country due to harmonic relations within this society and between all its members. As I have already mentioned the Asian values debates have become very significant not very long time ago but it doesn’t mean that they had never existed before. But if earlier in the 19-20th centuries the debates mainly concerned economical and technical aspects and their influence on Asia nowadays the range of problems is much wider and concerns economy, politics, social life, and culture and Asian set of values at large. One of the most significant peculiarities of contemporary debates is the opposition between Western and Eastern values and the possibility of their compatibility. But as many years ago again we speak rather about the influence of the Western civilization on Asia than the opposite. Some researchers consider that the notion of ‘Asian values’ appeared as the opposition of Asian elite to interference of Western countries in their internal affairs and as the attempt of local Asian states to overcome their colonial past. In other words Asian values transforms into the mean of preserving the right of Asian countries for a particular way of development different from that of Western countries. Probably, the shift to such understanding of the role of Asian values was the economical crisis the causes of which Asians explained not only by economical factors but they rather explained it by Western influence on Asian culture and politics. To better understand it we may refer to Prime Minister Singapore, Goh Chok Tong (1994, p.102): “For success to continue, correct economic policies alone are not enough. Equally important are the non-economic factors – a sense of community and nationhood, a disciplined and hardworking people, strong moral values and family ties. The type of society determines how we perform. It is not simply materialism and individual rewards, which drive Singapore forward. More important, it is the sense of idealism and service born out of a feeling of social solidarity and national identification. Without these crucial factors, we cannot be a happy or dynamic society”. And Goh Chok Tong is not alone in his belief that traditional Asian values must be preserved.

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