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Confucian Democracy

A Deweyan Reconstruction

Sor-hoon Tan

Publication Year: 2003

Using both Confucian texts and the work of American pragmatist John Dewey, this book offers a distinctly Confucian model of democracy. Through a detailed study of relevant concepts and theories in Confucianism and John Dewey’s pragmatist philosophy, this book illustrates the possibility of Confucian democracy and offers an alternative to Western liberal models. Sor-hoon Tan synthesizes the two philosophies through a comparative examination of individuals and community, democratic ideals of equality and freedom, and the nature of ethical and political order. By constructing a model of Confucian democracy that combines the strengths of both Confucianism and Deweyan pragmatism, this book explores how a premodern tradition could be put in dialogue with contemporary political and philosophical theories.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

A teacher once told me that the best way, perhaps the only way, to repay a debt of kindness is to pass it on. I think it applies equally well to debts of intellectual growth. I would like to pass on not only what I have learned, but to contribute to the task of philosophical inquiry to which my teachers have devoted themselves. ...

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Chapter 1: Confucian Democracy?

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pp. 1-16

With the end of the Cold War, many have foreseen a new world order. Have we reached “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”? 1 Even as Francis Fukuyama’s announcement of the end of history stirred up a fierce storm of controversy in...

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Chapter 2: Social Individuals

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pp. 17-62

Asians challenging what they perceive as cultural hegemony of Western nations in the human rights debate and Western communitarians within liberal democracies criticizing liberalism reject the overemphasis on individual autonomy that is based on a conception of the individual as a ready-made self conceptually and ontologically prior to social relations. The central...

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Chapter 3: Harmonious Communities

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pp. 63-112

John Dewey’s philosophy, which does not radically separate an individual from others nor reduce one to a pawn under others’ control, offers an alternative view of individuals that is compatible with early Confucianism. Such a view does not imply a conception of society as some mystical, super-individual subject. In rejecting conceptions of individuals as atomistic selves, one does not have to deny the value of individuality. Such...

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Chapter 4: Ethico-Political Orders

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pp. 113-156

The distinctive views of individuals and communities explored in the last two chapters have important implications for Dewey’s and Confucius’ conceptions of the relationship between ethics and politics. The inseparability of individual and social/communal means that ethics and politics also are inseparable. Ethics answers the question “How should one live?” Politics answers the question “How should we live together?” The questions...

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Chapter 5: Authoritative Freedom

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pp. 157-199

While Dewey does not simply equate democracy with freedom, there is no doubt that freedom is a central democratic value. “Democracy as a moral ideal is thus an endeavor to unite two ideas which have historically often worked antagonistically: liberation of individuals on one hand and promotion of a common good on the other” (L7.349). “The task of democracy is forever that of creation of a freer and more humane experience in which...

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Chapter 6: Cultivating Democracy

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pp. 201-209

Rather than the end of history in capitulation to Western liberal democracy, or the clash of Western and Confucian civilizations, I argue that Confucian societies are capable of an alternative future as Confucian democracies, different perhaps from Western liberal democracies but no less capable of living in peace with other civilizations. Contrary to skeptics such as Samuel Huntington, I contend that not only is a Confucian democracy...


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pp. 211-231


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pp. 233-251


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pp. 253-258

E-ISBN-13: 9780791486085
E-ISBN-10: 0791486087
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791458891
Print-ISBN-10: 079145889X

Page Count: 266
Publication Year: 2003

OCLC Number: 62757428
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Confucian Democracy

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Subject Headings

  • Democracy -- Religious aspects -- Confucianism.
  • Confucianism and state.
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