Individualism, paternalistic nationality, and the myth of indoctrination in Hong Kong, China


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This paper describes a study of the process of attempted institutional change and how the features of one institutional logics challenge this process. Specifically, the paper uses this framework to examine the resistance in Hong Kong to a proposed government mandated subject of national education in schools. Based on analysis of policy documents, laws, news reports, and interviews with teachers, the argument proceeds in several steps. First, the paper posits that Hong Kong society is strongly influenced by a globally institutionalized individualism, exemplified in the education field by the autonomy of schools, increasing student-centeredness in pedagogy, and more specifically school autonomy and student-centeredness in the delivery of citizenship education. In relation to this and especially relevant for the argument is the instituionalization, from the early 20th century, of a logic of anti-indoctrination. These factors have contributed to a largely individualistic relationship of Hong Kong people to the Chinese nation-state, especially in contrast to the institutionalized paternalism shaping the state-education-individual-nation relationship in Mainland China. Accompanying the decision to return Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in 1984 have been gradual government moves to incorporate more elements of nationality within education provision. Along the argument of this paper, these moves were relatively uncontroversial as long as they did not infringe on individualism. However, the government’s 2010 announcement of a mandated subject of national education, the paper argues, reignited the relatively dormant institutional logic of anti-indoctrination, providing a sharp tool for resistance to a perceived attempt at institutional change from individualistic to paternalistic nationality.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2012


Fairbrother, G. (2012, December). Individualism, paternalistic nationality, and the myth of indoctrination in Hong Kong, China. Paper presented at the Hong Kong Sociological Association 14th Annual Conference, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, China.


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