By Kevin A. Stoda, Matsu Islands , Taiwan
Chang, Wen-Chun (2010) "Religion and Preferences for Redistributive Policies in an East Asian Country," Poverty & Public Policy: Vol 2: Iss 4, Article 5, http://www.psocommons.org/ppp/vol2/iss4/art5/
I came across this article (cited fully above) published in the Poverty & Public Policy journal at the end of the last year. This particular article focuses on the role that religious background and interests play in the realm of demanding redistribution of resources and moneys in an East Asian country. The country of interest to the researchers is naturally Taiwan --where I currently live and work. This research article, is partially reviewed here. The article is written by Wen-Chun Chang and involves statistical analyses that will need to be reviewed and authenticated over the next decades to substantially increase its helpfulness and explanatory value.
The article (2010) is originally from Taiwan National University sources and is now entitled in English as follows: "Religion and Preferences for Redistributive Policies in an East Asian Country."
The author, Chang, claims that his review of national surveys of conducted over recent decades with Taiwanese have implications for all of East Asia, especially, in terms of how East Asian nations make decisions about redistribution- and welfare policies--even in our globalizing age where so much has focused in recent decades on the role of individual initiative and the international demand to level international economic playing fields. (Chang doesn't mention it but Taiwan is a major exporter of Chinese culture regionally and globally. More importantly, Taiwanese popular culture has been so strong for so long that it will continue to have important backwash effects on East Asian and Chinese communities for decades to come.)
I would add that as East Asians make up an enormous percentage of the global population (nearly 2 billion peoples) , that Chang's summary of implications ( if replicable over a decade or more) for Taiwan should be seen as pertinent and important to comprehending international, social, and political-economic development trends in coming decades for the whole planet, i.e. because what East Asians do effects the entire planet in terms of consumerism, consumption of raw materials, and capitalism.
KEY FINDINGS (based on 2006 data)
According to Chang, "[i]n particular, under the social and cultural context of an East Asian country, the linkages between religious affiliation and frequency of religious attendance and preferences for redistributive policies are different from what have been found in studies of Western Christian societies." For example, "[b]eing Protestant leads to a more favorable attitude toward several social insurance and welfare programs in Taiwan ." Meanwhile, "Buddhists and Taoists tend to be more supportive of a government's role in providing health care" with "believers of folk religions . . . more favorable for the provision of financial help to students from low-income families."
In short, East Asia appears to be behaving differently than the West--with its longer traditional concepts of separation between church and state. For example, traditional social scientific belief in the West has postulated that the more humanistic any particular regime behaves towards its citizens (and citizenry) as a whole, the more willing the citizenry are to find solace, health, wealth, and security outside of any religious sphere, especially in the state or the corporate state identity. (However, labor unions and political organizations have offered such solace and security, too.)
This secularization process came to be expected (over-time) in Europe and North America to be forever-busy-creating pronounced differences in how religious individuals voted or coalesced in groupings, i.e. in terms of support for particular political agendas.
For this reason, it had been observed for centuries in Western Europe that various catholic and protestant parties would be founded around particular issues--often-times separated from the so-called non-religious or anti-religious parties interests and campaigns.
This splintering continued in Europe over many generations--with historically different positions developing between the protestant, catholic and the non-religious groupings across the political party spectrum of the continent. However, the overall effect of the supposed growing state-church schism was that if religion continued to play any major role in societal developments, this was suspected to be only a reflection of overlap with the rest of secularized society's demands and needs--and not the other way around.
However, East Asia , which from a western popular culture perspective appears less- and less spiritual and religious, might be observed to be behaving to some degree quite differently when it comes to social, economic, and political matters than the West. This may be because the fundamentals of society may still be recognized by almost all East Asian actors as still functioning in their historical roles. According to what Chang reveals to us readers, this is even still currently reflected in the religious influences on modern East Asian thinking on governance, economy, and the politics of wealth-redistribution.
THE EAST ASIAN EXCEPTION?
Naturally, in recent decades, the supposedly inevitable trend towards secularization in the West has been called into question by the growing facts on the ground, i.e. that religion is just not going away.
Moreover, religion is a unifying and strong political force--both ethnically and culturally--even in North America and Europe . (Two examples of highly secularized cultures.) A variety of the political forces of this last century have shown that religions often provide the fundamental precepts by which a society functions.