Theory Building and Institutional Spirit: Some Thoughts Derived from "Possession, Operation, and Governance as Three Conceptual Dimensions of Town and Township Enterprises"

ZHAO Liwei
May 2013
Society: Chinese Journal of Sociology / Shehui;2013, Vol. 33 Issue 3, p51
Academic Journal
In social sciences, defining study targets, explaining issues, and predicting the future all rely upon conceptual paradigms or theoretical frames as reference, and furthermore, the accumulative development of any discipline reflects the progression of those paradigms and frames; it is anything but the simple collection of non-empirical data. In recent Chinese sociological research, Qu Jingdong's paper of "Possession, Operation, and Governance as Three Conceptual Dimensions of Town and Township Enterprises" is one meaningful attempt in theory building based on the "China Experience." Here, the researcher adopted the method of ideal type to construct a multidimensional conceptual framework around the key concepts of possession, operation, and governance in order to present and interpret the multidimensionality and the general meaning of town and township enterprises as a categorical phenomenon; and also, to bring to light the institutional spirit of the reform period. The general methodology that took in the interaction between the overall research perspective, conceptual frame and empirical questions, and the emphasis on the spiritual dimension of social phenomena as seen in his research not only represent his idea of "back to the classical social science" but is also enlightening to the advance of conceptualization and theorization in Chinese sociological research. In explaining some empirical questions, his research was an integrative and creative effort, demonstrating the possibility of applying the relevant concepts in classical social sciences to Chinese empirical questions and their valid power of explanation. Nonetheless, there are some issues that require discussion and improvement, for example, the general conceptual frame, especially the logical relations between the main concepts, is insufficiently described; the methodological distinction between the analytical and concrete levels is not always consistent; and the elaboration on the institutional spirit of town and township enterprises is not adequate.


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