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Chang Hsing-Wen

Synopsis: The large concern of my project is to inquire in to the issue of the crisis of democratic politics in Taiwan. Under the cold war structure, the modernization theory that prevailed from the 1950s took the “democratization” process in Taiwan to be an exemplary case to make a contrast to the dictatorship in socialist China. Although Taiwan is taken as the “exemplary case” in the democracies in Asia, most of the scholars consider the elective democracy—which is only formal democracy—to be insufficient. They especially consider the populist mobilization that is mobilizing and dividing people along the lines of provincial, ethnic, and national identities to be harming the basic mutual trust in the civil society or among the people. The intellectual trajectories and debate around the question of democracy is in correspondence to the two theoretical models in the West--“democracy as dialogue” versus “democracy as antagonism”. Whereas the Democratic left stresses various social movements as multiple democratic subjects, the deliberate democracy camp keeps refining the normative framework of the democratic dialogue. However, I would rather to understand the question of democracy in Taiwan not in the existing prescriptive framework. I would rather to understand the politics as political experience, which is to take the history of authoritarian regime and democratization as an important event for our political experience. I think the concept of political judgment that that deals with the unexpected and unprecedented events, which cannot be fit into our preconceived categories in the existing liberal or leftist framework, is important.  I will deal with the concept of min-jian (min: people, commoners; jian: in-betweeness) as a resource for thinking about the political life in the Chinese and Taiwanese context, attempting to rescue it from the current understanding of it either as the correspondence of “civil society” or “the mass”, “the popular”.

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