A Passion for Facts: Social Surveys and the Construction of by Tong Lam

By Tong Lam

During this path-breaking publication, Tong Lam examines the emergence of the "culture of truth" in sleek China, displaying how elites and intellectuals sought to rework the dynastic empire right into a countryside, thereby making sure its survival. Lam argues that an epistemological separate from from conventional modes of realizing the observable international begun round the flip of the 20 th century. Tracing the Neo-Confucian college of evidentiary examine and the fashionable departure from it, Lam indicates how, in the course of the upward push of the social survey, "the truth" grew to become a simple conceptual medium and resource of fact. In concentrating on China's social survey circulation, a fondness for evidence analyzes how info generated via a number study practices--census, sociological research, and ethnography--was mobilized by means of competing political factions to visualize, deal with, and remake the kingdom.

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Extra resources for A Passion for Facts: Social Surveys and the Construction of the Chinese Nation-State, 1900-1949 (Asia Pacific Modern)

Sample text

As the prototypes of the modern think tanks, these early nongovernmental organizations consciously distanced themselves from traditional religious charities and devised their policy recommendations and social programs based on extensive research conducted by social experts and scientists. At the same time, the global expansion of industrial capitalism propelled many of these foundations into roles as major players in the development, promotion, and implementation of social science research and social engineering programs outside the United States.

I further argue that early twentieth-century China was in effect a social laboratory in which contending political interests sought to innovate and experiment with new research methods, conceptual categories, and social engineering programs in their attempts to gain control and govern China. Finally, the epilogue is a brief reflection on the lasting impacts of this earlier history of facticity and the social survey movement on contemporary China. Lam, A Passion for Facts 1 8/18/11 12:58 PM Page 19 The Rise of the Fact and the Reimagining of China To take such [a scientific] attitude is to seek truth from facts.

11 Leading political arithmeticians such as John Graunt (1620–74) and William Petty (1623–89), among others, argued that governance should be based strictly on numbers and measurements instead of theories and rhetoric. As a device to study the relationship among population, disease, and wealth, political arithmetic was critical to thinkers and practitioners of political economy in their bids to strengthen the power of the state. The question of state strength remained central even when political arithmetic was losing ground to the emerging branch of knowledge known as statistics in the early nineteenth century.

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