Cultural Identity and Modernization in Asian Countries

Summary of Discussions: SESSION A

INOUE Nobutaka

1. Supplementary Explanatory Comments by the Speakers

There were four speakers for this session. They spoke in the order of Mr. Fujio Ikado, Mr. Arifin Bey, Mr. René Mendoza, and Mr. Minoru Sonoda. Because of time restrictions for each of the speakers, they were able to do no more that read from their papers, whether in their entirety or from selections. While Mr. Ikado spoke on a general theory of secularization, the remaining three dealt in concrete terms with the cases of Indonesia, the Philippines, and Japan.

Mr. Ikado used the terms, software the hardware, as metaphors to argue that religion is the software of societies; and that although secularization might proceed, the decline of religion is an impossibility. He argued that secularization should be understood using the concept of differentiation.

Mr. Arifun Bey argued against previous Western-centered modernization theory and he displayed a dissatisfaction with the view that modernization is tantamount to Westernization. He also emphasized the role of Islam in Indonesia. Islam, which does not distinguish between the sacred and the secular, has contributed to the modernization of the spirit and of the senses.

Mr. Mendoza pointed out that cultural identity in the Philippines arose as a movement against Spain and America. For the Filipinos, secularization meant the replacement of Spanish Catholic friars with native secular priests.

The final speaker, Mr. Sonoda, argued that the concept of a "religion of communities" (kyôdoôtai no shûkyô) is useful in considering the basic structure of Japanese religion; and he introduced the concept of the profanation of the community. In other words, in Japan, the notion of the secular as opposed to the religious did not arise. Rather, it is important to note that the community itself was at times sacred while at other times profane. Moreover, profanation of the community has progressed since the Meiji period.

Excepting Mr. Ikado's presentation, which took an extremely macro-scale approach, the presentations drew upon concrete examples and were of great interest. Common to these three speakers was an emphasis? perhaps best thought of as an antithesis to westernized theories of secularization and modernization? upon the historical particularities of each of their countries.

2. Comments by the Commentators

There were comments by Mr. Yanagawa Keiichi and Mr. Petere Berger on the presentations of the four speakers. First, Mr. Yanagawa, while a nothing that the presentations of the four speakers were of great interest, indicated that because of time limitations he would only point out problematical areas. The following are the questions which he addressed to each of the speakers.

A) To Mr. Ikado: Is the differentiation into culture religion, organizational religion, and private religion to which Mr. Ikado refers appropriate in considering other countries of Asia? Also, the differentiation explanation, which argues that secularization is the process of the differentiation of religion from the other elements of society? namely, the polity, the economy, education, etc.?arose from the 1960's. Is this explanation still useful today?

B) To Mr. Sonoda: In the paper, it is argued that the religion of communities has almost totally broken down. If that is the case, then what are the characteristics of contemporary Shinto[Glossary: shinto]? Also, is the economic development of Japan which took place during the Meiji period and following the War, unrelated to the religious tradition? Even the secularization concept alone has many meanings. Is it really necessary to further complicate the problem by introducing the concept or profanation?

C) To Mr. Mendoza: The situation in the Philippines has been made clear. However, if the Filipinos are constantly "anti-something," whether anti-Spanish, anti-American, or anti-colonial, what is the tradition that the Filipinos must actively preserve and rely upon?

D) To Mr. Bey: If secularization is the independence of Reason from the fetters of Religion, how should one evaluate Weber's argument that Christianity promoted the modernization of the West? If, as was explained, there is a fusion of the sacred and the secular in Islam, why did differentiation not take place?

Mr. Berger followed with his comments. He prefaced his remarks by nothing that since he had little knowledge of Asia it was not possible for him to comment on all of the presentations. Instead, he hoped to sharpen the focus of the discussions. Mr. Berger began by maintaining that there are two aspects of secularization: (1) a primary interest in this-worldly matters; (2) a loss of confidence in ideas related to other-worldly or supernatural matters. Furthermore, while in the West these two aspects are intimately related, he proposed to consider the possibility that in the East these two aspects are related in a different manner. He also addressed short comments to each of the speakers.

A) To Mr. Sonoda: Isn't what Mr. Sonoda calls profanation, the second aspect of secularization? If this is so, is not Japan similar to the West?

B) To Mr. Ikado: This is an extremely functionalist explanation. However, isn't there a side to religion which cannot be explained in this way?

C) To Mr. Mendoza: This is also type of functionalist explanation. Mr. Mendoza did not refer to Malay culture. How is Malay culture related to modernization in the Philippines? Also, since contact with America, what have been the effects of Protestant rigorism?

3. Responses of the Speakers

There were responses from each of the speakers to the above comments.

First, Mr. Ikado in responding to both Mr. Yanagawa and Mr. Berger emphasized again the usefulness of the concept of differentiation in considering the problems of secularization and modernization in Asia.

Mr. Mendoza acknowledged that to a certain extent, as pointed out by Mr. Yanagawa, there is always and "anti-something" tendency and a lack of what is uniquely Filipino. This is a point on which Japan differs greatly. He observed that before the coming of the Spanish there was no Philippines; and this historical background is a great obstacle when pursuing a national identity for the Philippines. He also noted the necessity of understanding the religious history and religious geography of the Philippines in considering the relations between politics and religion. There was also the relations between politics and religion. There was also the observation that the Protestantism presented by America was Catholicized by the Filipinos.

Mr. Bey took the critical position that the concept of "modernization" may itself be a type of religion. He started that he did not feel any current need for a Westernized modernization in Islamic society; and he displayed a dissatisfaction with the argument that a Western?style modernization is unavoidable.

The above were the questions and responses; however, the discussions did not necessarily proceed in a developmental fashion. Mr. Yanagawa directed attention to the problem of comparing each of the presentation within the Asian context. However, the task of comparing each of the Asian countries must be premised by the mutual building up, by scholars, of a certain level of knowledge concerning the countries to which one's own is to be compared. Therefore, this is a matter which is more likely to be a task for the future.

Mr. Berger, in dealing with the problem of secularization in Asia, seemed to be concerned with how this secularization differed from and how it could be treated as equal to that of the West. Mr. Berger steered the discussion, insofar as possible, toward a selection and organization of problems; in this sense he prevented the discussion from digressing into minor issues.

4. Discussion

After the above discussions between the speakers and the commentators, there was an exchange of views centering on questions from the floor.

The question were not necessarily all relevant: some did not fit into the flow of the discussion. In particular, there were two or three such questions in the second half. However, there were also several which added to the discussion. A selection of these is introduced in the following.

Mr. Ishii Yoneo, taking off on the "anti-something" tendency in the Philippines introduced the relevant problem of Thai monasteries. In Thailand, which did not experience colonialism, the democratization movement began in the 1970s. It is important to observe that under these circumstances there was quite strong criticism of monks even while the criticisms against the Sangha system itself were few. Nevertheless, he explained that this ought to be construed as showing that the Sangha itself is not able to adjust to modernization.

Also, while giving the examples of Muslims in India and Pakistan, Mr. Madan argued that in the Islamic world secularization does not mean the decline or the death of religion. Further, he argued that it is important to distinguish between Islam for the community and Islam for the individual.

Mr. Noriaki Akaike, addressing his question in particular to Mr. Mendoza, asked if it is not necessary to consider kinship when dealing with the question of politics and religion in the Philippines. He also asked if it is appropriate to consider folk Catholicism as secularized Catholicism.

These questions and comments put the difficulty of the session into relief. While recognizing the inescapability of the fact that the terms secularization and modernization will be used with a multiplicity of meanings, a major task would seem to be to consider how it will be possible to overcome the extreme complication of the problem which arises as a result of the diversity in the religious conditions of each country. In other words, a productive method would seem to be first to adequately understand the modern religious histories of each of the countries; then to determine what common ways of examining these countries are possible.