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Basis of sociology is domestic experiences

Author  :  Hong Dayong     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2017-06-20

In the nearly four decades of development since the revival of Chinese sociology in 1978, the discipline has made great progress in the construction of a disciplinary system, talent cultivation, research and international communication. However, it is still lagging behind the requirement of the cause of the Communist Party of China and the nation as well as the goal of building sociology with Chinese characteristics.

In the new era, we need to focus on two interwoven processes while constructing sociology with Chinese characteristics: the revival and reconstruction of sociology as a discipline and the country’s social construction since the beginning of reform and opening up. As a discipline, sociology provides a perspective for observing and studying society as well as intellectual support and guidance for social construction.

The course of social construction since reform and opening up is the subject of research for the discipline and also sets the stage for reviving the discipline. When the two processes are closely connected and benignly interact, sociology can develop and yield major results. Otherwise, it will be hindered. Therefore, the construction of sociology with Chinese characteristics should be based on China’s own social construction practice.

To this end, the construction of sociology with Chinese characteristics should proceed based on reality. The Sinicization of sociology is not complete. Simply applying foreign sociological theories, concepts and methodologies to analyze China’s social construction practice can only produce ineffective results or even lead to false conclusions. Fei Xiaotong or Fei Hsiao-Tung (1910- 2005), a pioneering Chinese researcher and professor of sociology and anthropology, said that many concepts in social life developed based on one social regime or culture cannot necessarily be applied to another without modification.

He advocated innovating sociological studies according to China’s own experience rather than borrowing existing concepts from foreign countries. Sociologists should strengthen research on major issues in China’s social construction and constantly explore new materials, discover new problems, propose new views and construct new theories.

The construction of Chinese sociology should also be people oriented. “Who to serve” has always been the fundamental matter of principle for developing any discipline. If academic studies are divorced from the people, they will lose appeal, influence and vitality, and then the people will also show no concern for them.

Sociologists should always uphold the belief of serving the people by respecting their central status, focusing on their practice and innovation, and relating academic pursuits to national prosperity and strength as well as people’s wellbeing.

The construction of Chinese sociology should be driven by innovation. A discipline cannot develop by indiscriminately imitating foreign theories. Chinese sociologists should proactively innovate China’s own theories and methods and then create new systems of concepts, theories, methodologies and discourse that have Chinese features and also universal significance.

Innovation is the essential requirement for developing sociology, and in fact innovation is an inevitable result when the discipline is people oriented and focuses on practical issues.

To fulfill the aforementioned three requirements in practice requires adherence to the guidance of Marxism, and this is also the underlying factor that distinguishes Chinese sociology from the discipline in other countries. Practice shows that no matter how society and the times change, Marxism always has the power to guide scientific research. We should uphold Marxism in the whole process and in all aspects of developing Chinese sociology, and this is the only route to construct sociology with Chinese characteristics.


Hong Dayong is vice-president of Renmin University of China.

Editor: Yu Hui

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