Confucian rituals and the technology of the self: A Foucaultian interpretation

Philosophy East and West 51 (3):315-324 (2001)
Abstract
At first, the disciplined, proper, and moralistic Confucian might seem a far cry from the free, independent, and spontaneous individual of liberalism. However, Confucian self-discipline and ritual propriety are quite suitable for a democratic society. Liberal political theories privilege individual freedom, but there is little in them that deals with concrete ways in which this freedom can be exercised. Confucian theories of self-discipline and ritual propriety can fill this gap in liberal theory. Michel Foucault's investigations of Ancient Greek and Roman technologies of the self show that self-cultivation, self-discipline, and ritual conduct are indispensable for the proper practice of freedom. Thus, Foucault provides us with a new perspective from which to investigate and affirm the democratic potential of Confucianism
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