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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

3 - Tradition and modernity in East and Southeast Asia


IN THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER, we examined the concept of tradition and compared it to the idea of modernity. We suggested that it was useful to think about tradition in relation to community, and in particular the notion that in a traditional society people had a much stronger bond of affinity to place and family than they do in modern society. Pre-modern societies were based on agriculture, and most people lived in villages with little contact with the outside world. There was little mobility, either geographically or socially. People lived and died in the village and class into which they had been born. Traditional societies therefore tended to be rather static, although not completely unchanging. Patterns of behaviour – rituals, customs, the habits of daily life – were passed on from one generation to the next, and things were done in a particular way for the simple reason that they had always been done that way. Behaviour became habitual. The lack of outside influences strengthened the force of habit that was a hallmark of traditional societies. Modernisation, industrialisation and urbanisation changed the structure and function of the family. In particular, the extended family and stem family gave way to the nuclear family; people gained greater choice in the selection of their marriage partner; families became smaller; and the role of women changed (although more so in some societies than others). In some complex, developed societies with ageing populations, such as Japan, South Korea and Australia, the nuclear family is now in decline, its central position eroded by an increase in single-person households and single-parent families.

Guide to further reading
Bancroft, Anne 1974 Religions of the EastNew YorkSt Martin's Press
Carey, Hilary M. 1996 Believing in Australia: A cultural history of religionsSydneyAllen & Unwin
Fox, Jonathan 2008 A World Survey of Religion and the StateNew YorkCambridge University Press
Hamayotsu, Kikue 2002 Islam and nation building in Southeast Asia: Malaysia and Indonesia in comparative perspectivePacific Affairs 75 353
Hamilton, Malcolm B. 1998 Sociology and the World's ReligionsNew YorkSt Martin's Press
Houben, Vincent J. H. 2003 Southeast Asia and IslamAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 588 149
Kepel, Giles 1994 The Revenge of God: The Resurgence of Islam, Christianity and Judaism in the Modern WorldCambridgePolity
Mathews, Warren 1995 World ReligionsMinneapolisWest Publishing Company
Mulder, Niels 2000 Inside Southeast Asia: Religion, Everyday Life, Cultural ChangeChang Mai, ThailandSilkworm Books
Young, William A. 2005 The World's Religions: Worldviews and Contemporary IssuesUpper Saddle River, NJPrentice Hall