Sociology in Times of Crisis: Chen Da, National Salvation and the Indigenization of Knowledge
Chen Da was one of the foremost sociologists of China from the 1920s to the 1940s. His intellectual habitus took shape from the long crisis that defined Chinese intellectual life from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, a period of continuous imperial assault on Chinese sovereignty. As China integrated into the capitalist world-system, neo-Confucian structures of knowledge came into question. Intellectuals took up sociology to guide China’s transition from an empire to a nation-state. Through his studies on labor, migration, and population, Chen Da contributed to the institutionalization of sociology in China. Chen sought to craft a theory of Chinese development that followed universal trajectories of progress but was also attuned to the complexity of Chinese society on the ground. Through his efforts to indigenize sociology, Chen developed a non-Marxist historical materialism, a deterritorialized and pluralistic conceptualization of China as a nation, and a theory of eugenic transformation centered on the concept of “mode of living.” The questions which Chen Da confronted are emblematic of the predicament faced by Chinese social scientists today, who again struggle with the dynamics of a deterritorialzied “Greater China,” rising social fragmentation, and refigured eugenic discourses and policies that aim to craft the Chinese people into ideal national subjects fit for post-socialist development.
Akami, Tomoko. 1994. “The Rise and Fall of a ‘Pacific Sense’: The Experiment of the Institute
of Pacific Relations, 1925-1930,” Shibusawa kenkyū, 7:2-37.
Arrighi, Giovanni. 2007. Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineages of the Twenty-First Century.
London; New York: Verso Books, 2007.
Arrighi, Giovanni and Beverly J. Silver. 1999. Chaos and Governance in the Modern World
System. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Balakrishnan, Gopal. 2000. The Enemy: An Intellectual Potrait of Carl Schmitt. New York, NY: Verso.
Boorman, Howard L., ed. 1967. Biographical Dictionary of Republican China, Volume I. New
York; London: Columbia University Press.
Bourdieu, Pierre, 1990. In Other Words. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Callahan, William A. 2004a. Contingent States: Greater China and Transnational Relations.
Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Callahan, William A. 2004b. “National Insecurities: Humiliation, Salvation and Nationalism,”
Celarent, Barbara. 2011. Review of Chinese Migrations, with Special Reference to Labor
Conditions by Chen Da and Emigrant Communities in South China by Chen Da. American Journal of Sociology 117(3):1022-1027.
Chen, Da. 1920a. “The Labor Situation in China,” Monthly Labor Review 11(6):207-213.
Chen, Da. 1920b. “Ting wo suku,” Chinese Students’ Quarterly, 2:188-189.
Chen, Da. 1921a. “Labor Unrest in China,” Monthly Labor Review 13(2):17-30.
Chen, Da. 1921b. “Prices and Cost of Living in Japan and China Since the World War,” Monthly
Labor Review 13(6):1-7.
Chen, Da. 1921c. “Wages and Hours of Labor in Five Chinese Cities, 1917 and 1920,” Monthly
Labor Review 13(2):3-15.
Chen, Da. 1922a. “Shipping Strike in Hong Kong,” Monthly Labor Review 14(5):9-15.
Chen, Da. 1922b. “Woman and Child Labor,” Monthly Labor Review 15(6):142-149.
Chen, Da 1923. Chinese Migrations with Special Reference to Labor Conditions. Washington,
D.C.: United States. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Chen, Da. 1924. “Labor Conditions in China,” Monthly Labor Review 19(5):36-49.
Chen, Da. 1927. “The Labour Movement in China,” International Labor Review 15(3):362-363.
Chen, Da. 1929. Zhongguo laogong wenti. Shanghai; Shangwu yin shuguan.
Chen, Da. 1934. “Depopulation and Culture,” Phi Tau Phi Lecture Series, Second Annual
Lecture. Canton; Lingnan University.
Chen, Da. 1935. Renkou wenti. Shanghai: Shangwuyin shuguan.
Chen, Da. 1938. Nanyang huaqiao yu min yue shehui. Shanghai: Shangwu yin shuguan.
Chen, Da. 1940. Emigrant Communities in South China: A Study of Overseas Migration and Its
Influence on Standards of Living and Social Change. New York, NY; Institute of Pacific
Chen, Da. 1946. Population in Modern China. Chicago, IL; University of Chicago Press.
Chesnaux, Jean. 1968. The Chinese Labor Movement 1919-1927. Stanford, CA; Stanford
Chiang, Yung-Chen. 2001. Social Engineering and the Social Sciences in China, 1919-1949.
Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.
Chriss. James J. 2006. “Giddings and the Social Mind,” Journal of Classical Sociology 6(1):123-
Chung. Yuehtsen Juliette. 2002. Struggle for National Survival: Eugenics in Sino-Japanese
Contexts, 1896-1945. New York, NY: Routledge.
Clark, Carroll D.1954. “The Contributions of William Fielding Ogburn,” The Midwest
Cohen, Paul A. 2002. “Remembering and Forgetting: National Humiliation in Twentieth-
Century China.” Twentieth-Century China 27(2):1-39.
Dikötter, Frank. 1992. The Discourse of Race in Modern China. Stanford, CA: Stanford
Dirlik, Arif. 1979. Revolution and History: Origins of Marxist Historiography in China 1919-
Berkeley: University of California Press.
Dirlik, Arif. 1985. “Culture, Society and Revolution: A Critical Discussion of American Studies
of Modern Chinese Throught,” Working Papers in Asian/Pacific Studies. Durham, NC:
Asian/Pacific Studies Institute, Duke University.
Dirlik, Arif. 1989. The Origins of Chinese Communism. New York; Oxford University Press.
Dirlik, Arif. 2012. “Zhongguohua: Worlding China: The Case of Sociology and Anthropology
in 20th-Century China,” Pp 1-40 in Sociology and Anthropology in Twentieth-Century China: Between Universalism and Indigenism, edited by Arif Dirlik. Hong Kong; The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Freedman, Maurice. 1962. “Sociology in China: A Brief Survey,” The China Quarterly, 10:166-
Fried, Morton H. 1954. “Community Studies in China,” The Far Eastern Quarterly 14(1):11-36.
Frank, Andre Gunder. 1998. ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age. Berkeley, CA:
University of California Press.
Garrett, Shirley S.1970. Social Reformers in Urban China: The Chinese Y.M.C.A., 1895-1926.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970.
Hamashita, Takeshi. 2008. China, East Asia and the Global Economy: Regional and Historical
Perspectives. New York, NY: Routledge.
Harding, Harry. 1993. “The Concept of ‘Greater China’: Themes, Variations and Reservations,”
The China Quarterly 136(4): 660-686.
Hayford, Charles Wishart. 1990. To the People: James Yen and Village China. New York, NY:
Columbia University Press.
Hechter, Michael. 1975. Internal Colonialism: The Celtic Fringe in British National
Development, 1536-1966. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Ho, Pint-ti. 1959. Studies On the Population of China. Cambridge, CT: Harvard University Press.
Wang, Hui. 2014. China from Empire to Nation-State. Cambridge, MA; Harvard University
Jacka, Tamara. 2009. “Cultivating Citizens: Suzhi (Quality) Discourse in the PRC,” Positions
Karl, Rebecca. 2002. Staging the World: Chinese Nationalism and the Turn of the Twentieth
Century. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Kwan, Daniel.1997. Marxist Intellectuals and the Chinese Labor Movement: A Study of Deng
Zhongxia. Seattle, WA;University of Washington Press.
Lam, Tong. 2011. A Passion for Facts: Social Surveys and the Construction of the Chinese
Nation-State, 1900-1949. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Li, Guannan. 2012. “The Synthesis School and the Founding of “Orthodox” and “Authentic”
Sociology in Nationalist China: Sun Benwen’s Sociological Thinking and Practice,” Pp 63-88 in Sociology and Anthropology in Twentieth-Century China: Between Universalism and Indigenism, edited by Arif Dirlik. Hong Kong; The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Meng, Chih. 1931. “The American Returned Students of China,” Pacific Affairs, (January
Ninkovic, Frank. 1984. “The Rockefeller Foundation, China, and Cultural Change,” The Journal
of American History, 70 (4):799-819.
Mitchell, Timothy. 1991. “The Limits of the State: Beyond Statist Approaches and Their Critics,” The American Political Science Review 85 (1):77-97.
Nystrand, Martin. 1982. What Writers Know: The Language, Process, and Structure of Written
Discourse. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.
Schwartz, Benjamin I. 1964. In Search of Wealth and Power: Yen Fu and the West. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.
Scott, James C. 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human
Condition Have Failed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Stapleford, Thomas A. 2009. The Cost of Living in America: A Political History of Economic
Statistics, 1880-2000. London; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Steinmetz, George. 2011. “Bourdieu, Historicity, and Historical Sociology,” Cultural Sociology
Stern, Alexandra Minna. 2005. Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in
Modern America. Berkeley, CA; University of California Press, 2005.
Sun Yuesheng and Wei Zhangling. 1987. “The One-Child Policy in China Today,” Journal of
Comparative Family Studies 18(2):309-325.
Turner, Jonathan. 1990. The Impossible Science: An Institutional Analysis of American Sociology.
Wang, Hui. 2014. China From Empire to Nation-State. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Wang Gungwu. 1993. “Greater China and the Chinese Overseas,” The China Quarterly 136 (4):
Wang, Zheng. 2012. Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics
and Foreign Relations. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Wong Siu-lun. 1979. Sociology and Socialism in Contemporary China. London; Boston:
Routledge and K. Paul.
Yan, Hairong. 2008. New Masters, New Servants: Migration, Development and Women Workers
in China. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Yan, Ming. 2004. Yi men xueke yu yige shidai: shehuixue zai Zhongguo. Beijing: Qinghua Daxue
Yang, Yabin. 2001. Jindai Zhongguo shehui xue, 2 volumes. Beijing: Zhongguo Shehui Kexue
Ye, Weili. 2001. Seeking Modernity in China’s Name: Chinese Students in the United States,
-1927. Stanford, CA; Stanford University Press, 2001.
Yen, Hsiao-pei. 2012. “Li Anzai and Frontier Anthropology: Tibet, Discourse of the Frontier,
and Applied Anthropology during World War II, 1937-1945,” Pp 139-160 in Sociology
and Anthropology in Twentieth-Century China: Between Universalism and Indigenism,
edited by Arif Dirlik. Hong Kong; The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Yuan, Fang and Weitian Quan. 1981. “Sociologist Chen Da,” Chinese Sociology and
Zheng Hangsheng, Yingsheng Li and Chu Zhang. 2003. A History of Chinese Sociology (Newly
Compiled). Beijing: China Renmin University Press.
Copyright (c) 2015 Ana Maria Candela
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- The Author retains copyright in the Work, where the term “Work” shall include all digital objects that may result in subsequent electronic publication or distribution.
- Upon acceptance of the Work, the author shall grant to the Publisher the right of first publication of the Work.
- The Author shall grant to the Publisher and its agents the nonexclusive perpetual right and license to publish, archive, and make accessible the Work in whole or in part in all forms of media now or hereafter known under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License or its equivalent, which, for the avoidance of doubt, allows others to copy, distribute, and transmit the Work under the following conditions:
- Attribution—other users must attribute the Work in the manner specified by the author as indicated on the journal Web site;
- The Author is able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the nonexclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the Work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), as long as there is provided in the document an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post online a prepublication manuscript (but not the Publisher’s final formatted PDF version of the Work) in institutional repositories or on their Websites prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work. Any such posting made before acceptance and publication of the Work shall be updated upon publication to include a reference to the Publisher-assigned DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and a link to the online abstract for the final published Work in the Journal.
- Upon Publisher’s request, the Author agrees to furnish promptly to Publisher, at the Author’s own expense, written evidence of the permissions, licenses, and consents for use of third-party material included within the Work, except as determined by Publisher to be covered by the principles of Fair Use.
- The Author represents and warrants that:
- the Work is the Author’s original work;
- the Author has not transferred, and will not transfer, exclusive rights in the Work to any third party;
- the Work is not pending review or under consideration by another publisher;
- the Work has not previously been published;
- the Work contains no misrepresentation or infringement of the Work or property of other authors or third parties; and
- the Work contains no libel, invasion of privacy, or other unlawful matter.
- The Author agrees to indemnify and hold Publisher harmless from Author’s breach of the representations and warranties contained in Paragraph 6 above, as well as any claim or proceeding relating to Publisher’s use and publication of any content contained in the Work, including third-party content.
Revised 7/16/2018. Revision Description: Removed outdated link.