Redefining second modernity for East Asia: a critical assessment




The aim of this paper is to critically assess the extent to which the concept of second modernity and reflexive modernization proposed by Beck and Grande is relevant to East Asia. Concepts such as driving forces, human agency, objective-structural versus cultural-discursive dimensions, radicalizing versus deficiencies aspects of modernity, push versus pull factors are used to clarify the basic conditions of this historical transformation. Utilizing these conceptual schemes, this paper has advanced the following central claims: 1) Second modernity and reflexive modernization, as a global trend, affects East Asia as deeply as it does in the West, especially when we see this as a structurally conditioned historical transformation; 2) Global risks, as a driving force of second modernity, are more relevant in East Asia because, as a result of the side-effects of the rush-to development, East Asian countries face complex risks of far greater intensity than in the West; 3) The action-mediated pull factor of second-modern transformation in East Asia, expressed through the cultural–discursive articulation of collective desire and aspiration, differs significantly from the West. Consequently, the East Asian pathways to individualization display distinctive characteristics despite the common structural background where push factors operate; 4) East Asia also differs from the West in terms of the normative vision anchored in second modernity; 5) Nevertheless, concrete pathways to second modernity within East Asia differ from one country to another.