Four Models of the Relationship between Confucianism and Democracy
Journal of Chinese Philosophy 37:1 (March 2010) 18–33
16 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2012 Last revised: 1 Dec 2014
Date Written: December 1, 2014
Confucianism is not a conceptual monolith but rather has a variety of traditions, versions and forms including imperial, reform, elite, merchant-house, and mass Confucianism. Just as Confucianism is multidimensional, democracy is also multifaceted including liberal, developmental, social, deliberative, and republican conceptions of democracy.The relationships between democracy and Confucianism therefore must be multiple and complex. Much of the controversy stems from the fact that scholars use different conceptions of democracy and give different interpretations of Confucianism to support their positions. Any single conceptualization about correlations between democracy and Confucianism will, therefore, of necessity, be narrow, one sided and incomplete. It seems inappropriate to start with a monocular definition of Confucianism or democracy because such an approach will exclude others. It is better to remain open to other definitions and interpretations, because different understandings and conceptions of Confucianism and democracy, together with historical contexts, cultural backgrounds, power relationships and geopolitics all play their part. In building democracy, changing interpretations and reconstructions of Confucianism often come into play.
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