Confucius, Autonomy, and Capitalism

14 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2017

See all articles by Thomas Firey

Thomas Firey

Cato Institute; Maryland Public Policy Institute

Date Written: October 26, 2017


Book review and critique of "Against Individualism" by Henry Rosemont Jr. (Lexington Books, 2015). In the book, Rosemont criticizes Western "foundational individualism" and the Western moral theories and capitalist economic system it supports. He proposes that the West instead adopt the Confucian notion that morality centers on the fulfillment of one's social roles, and that the West reorganize its political and economic systems around this notion, including adoption of a healthy "social justice" programme. However, the review points out that there are ontological and empirical problems with Rosemont's critique, and that his Confucian alternative both seems to support some morally troubling outcomes and doesn't provide the clear political and economic programme Rosemont desires. Though foundational individualism can be criticized for not having a clear "social justice" component, it seems more likely that component can be developed, than that Rosemont's Confucianism can yield the happier and more just world Rosemont assumes.

Keywords: Confucianism, Social Justice, Capitalism, Libertarianism, Individualism

JEL Classification: Y3, I31

Suggested Citation

Firey, Thomas, Confucius, Autonomy, and Capitalism (October 26, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Thomas Firey (Contact Author)

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