Building and Exporting the Korean Competitiveness Society – For a Sociological Reading of the Reproduction of Global Capitalism

建設並輸出韓國式的競爭力社會 - 複製全球資本主義的社會學解讀

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
Award date30 Jun 2017


The overarching objective of this dissertation is to use a sociological lens to understand the reproduction of capitalism on a global scale. It asks how a capitalist society is produced and reproduced in the Republic of Korea, and how Korea now participates to the expansion of global capitalism. Seeking to enrich current theories of state transformation under neoliberalism with a sociological methodology, and building upon critical social theory, I first show how and why Korea is transforming into a society where all social relations are to be governed by the neoliberal imperative of competitiveness. Empirically, I undertake an analysis of nation branding policies in Korea and a sociological analysis of the competitive ethos of Korean citizens. I underline the class-based, gendered and generational inequalities reinforced by such a competitiveness society. I then explore how Korea exports the material and ideational structures of the competitiveness society through development assistance policies, replacing them within the larger context of a contemporary political economy of development that emphasises international competitiveness and private sector inclusion. Empirically, I focus on the public relations policies of the Korean development agencies; the inclusion of Korean conglomerates in development schemes; and Saemaul Undong, a rural development program Korea exports, with a specific case study on its export in the Philippines. This dissertation shows that contemporary global capitalism as a world order is not only reproduced through the power of global economic governance institutions, or the dominance of capitalist modes of production, but also through the creation and diffusion of a neoliberal ethos emphasising the societal value of competitiveness.