Beyond ethnocentrism: Towards a global social theory

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In this chapter we present the sketch of a global social theory that overcomes the paralyzing opposition between ethnocentrism and relativism by making the cultural situatedness of theory construction its starting point. Avoiding the master-narratives of either a developmental or a transcendental grounding, we aim to reconstruct the agentive resources that allow individual subjects to position themselves critically and reflexively within their cultural and social contexts. Cultural worlds thus emerge as the localized inescapable horizons from within which cultural critique necessarily emerges. Our global social theory develops its formal framework by first grounding itself in hermeneutics, followed by developing an account of how linguistically mediated conceptual schemes pre-structure intercultural dialogue, to eventually arrive at three dimensions of self-reflexivity that are entailed in all meaning-constitution: existential self-reflexivity, dialogical other-reflexivity, and holistic world-reflexivity. We probe our account by engaging Chinese thought and ethics vis-à-vis the relation between self, other, and world-embeddedness. Neo-Confucianism raises concerns vis-à-vis the distinction between social normativity and cosmological ontology, but promises multiple pathways of non-Western modes of conceptualizing the crucial relation between self and being. Irreducible self-reflexivity, egalitarian self-other relations, and interpretive self-awareness present universal marks of our otherwise thoroughly contextual and cultural practices of global self-understanding.

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Social Theory and Asian Dialogues: Cultivating Planetary Conversations

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