Chinese Concepts for the Development of Sociological Theory
Few readers notice that in a celebrated essay Goffman, in a footnote, acknowledges the Chinese source of his concept of face. Around the time Goffman published ‘On Face-work’ Merton urged that theory development requires, among other things, clarification or refinement of concepts. If culture is taken to be effectively related to action and meaning it is necessary to go beyond the approach in which theories, concepts and methods developed in one socio-cultural context are simply applied to ‘data’ generated in another. The present paper shows that concepts from other cultures may challenge taken-for-granted assumptions, received wisdoms and established conventions. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that the scope and competence of mainstream theory may be enhanced by incorporation of concepts drawn from extraneous cultures. It demonstrates that a number of selected Chinese concepts identify or illuminate properties and relations neglected in mainstream sociological theory and thereby encourage new directions of research and theorization, and suggests how these may be achieved.
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