© 2018

Chinese Sociology

State-Building and the Institutionalization of Globally Circulated Knowledge

  • Highlights the institutional and historical factors shaping the development of Chinese sociology

  • Demonstrates the state's central role in shaping the Chinese sociological community by charting the flow of material, organizational and symbolic resources

  • Argues that while state-building projects are beneficial for the institutionalization of sociological knowledge, their impact on intellectual diversity and creativity is more ambiguous


Part of the Sociology Transformed book series (SOTR)

About this book


This book examines the institutional development of Chinese sociology from the 1890s to the present. It plots the discipline’s twisting path in the Chinese context, from early Western influences; through the institutionalization of the discipline in the 1930s-40s; its problematic relationship with socialism and interruptions under Marxist orthodoxy and the Cultural Revolution; its revival during the 1980s-90s; to the twin trends of globalization and indigenization in current Chinese sociological scholarship. Chen argues that in spite of the state-building agenda and persistent efforts to indigenize the discipline, the Western model remains pervasively influential, due in large part to the influence of American missionaries, foundations and scholars in the formation and transformation of the Chinese sociological tradition. The history of Chinese sociology is shown to be a contingent process in which globally circulated knowledge, above all the American sociological tradition, has been adapted to the changing contexts of China. This engaging work contributes an important country study to the history of sociology and will appeal to scholars of Chinese history and disciplinary historiography, in addition to social scientists. 


Chinese sociology American sociology institutional approach state-building globally circulated knowledge classical sociology Marxist sociology modernization theory social stratification gender studies post-positivism sociology of consumption globalization indigenization professional sociology public sociology history of sociology sinicization

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Social PolicyLingnan UniversityNew TerritoriesHong Kong

About the authors

Hon Fai Chen is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at Lingnan University, Hong Kong. His research interests include social theory, historical sociology and China studies. He is the author of Catholics and Everyday Life in Macau (2017), and Civilizing the Chinese, Competing with the West: Study Societies in Late Qing China (2017).

Bibliographic information


“In this concise and well-researched book, Chen Hon-Fai offers a fascinating new conspectus of the discipline’s history and current situation. The role of the state and transnational networks in shaping Chinese sociology are carefully analyzed. So too are the attempts of several pioneering individuals to indigenize the discipline. Everywhere, the turbulent politics of China affects the sociological scene. A stimulating contribution to the study of sociology as a global phenomenon, Chen Hon-Fai’s probing new book is highly recommended.” (Peter Baehr, Professor of Social Theory, Lingnan University, Hong Kong)

Chinese Sociology is an essential analysis of the development of the discipline on mainland China, adding to the existing literature on Hong Kong and Taiwan with a historical imagination informed by an institutional perspective. Drawing thoughtfully on the best current work in the sociology of ideas and knowledge, Chen Hon-Fai manages to think comparatively and sociologically about mainland Chinese sociology while also highlighting the contributions of the most important Chinese scholars and their distinctive ideas, findings, research programs and institution building successes and challenges.” (Neil McLaughlin, Professor of Sociology, McMaster University, Canada)