East Asian Exceptionalism - A Rejoinder
7 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2012
Date Written: June 15, 2012
We know from post-war Western history that little or no systematic connection was present between a healthy democracy and voters who were tolerant about homosexuality, abortion, divorce or euthanasia. Think of the UK in the early post-war period: a mature democracy, but still driving homosexuals to suicide. Or of Italy, democratic in its frequent changes of government coalitions, but until recently with a divorzio all'italiano that was a lot funnier in the movie than in reality. In the history of these two countries political tolerance and respect for the rights of losers in national elections were not obviously connected to tolerance in private sexual and family matters. We caution that what was true historically in Europe is still true today in East Asia. All East Asian nations have subscribed to the universal values in the Charter of the United Nations, but it does not follow that they have to abandon their cultural heritage or assimilate all aspects of today’s dominant Western culture. Japan is a modern example of a mature democracy that has well preserved many traditional aspects of its culture, an important part of its own national identity. Cross-cultural researchers should be aware of specific local cultural contexts and not apply Western formulas for data reduction to East Asia without testing whether that is appropriate.
Keywords: Asian Values, Inglehart-Welzel index of self-expression, World Values Survey
JEL Classification: Z10, P50
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation