Why Early Confucianism Cannot Generate Democracy

A central issue in Chinese philosophy today is the relationship between Confucianism and democracy. While some political figures have argued that Confucian values justify non-democratic forms of government, many scholars have argued that Confucianism can provide justification for democracy, though this Confucian democracy will differ substantially from liberal democracy. These scholars believe it is important for Chinese culture to develop its own conception of democracy using Confucian values, drawn mainly from Kongzi (Confucius) and Mengzi (Mencius), as the basis. This essay describes some obstacles to this form of Confucian democracy. It argues that considering the political philosophies of Kongzi and Mengzi in the context of their views on personal cultivation reveals that they oppose some of the central assumptions of democracy. They do not trust the public to make good decisions, and advocate government for the people, but not by the people. These philosophies alone cannot generate democracy.
Keywords Confucianism  Democracy  Kongzi  Mengzi
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11712-010-9187-9
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 15,914
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
John Locke (2007). Second Treatise on Government. In Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Late Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings with Commentary. Blackwell Pub. Ltd.
Alan Gewirth (1978). Reason and Morality. University of Chicago Press.
P. J. Ivanhoe (2000). Confucian Moral Self Cultivation. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).

View all 19 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Sor-Hoon Tan (2012). Democracy in Confucianism. Philosophy Compass 7 (5):293-303.
Shaun O’Dwyer (2015). Epistemic Elitism, Paternalism, and Confucian Democracy. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 14 (1):33-54.
David Elstein (2012). Mou Zongsan's New Confucian Democracy. Contemporary Political Theory 11 (2):192.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

51 ( #65,987 of 1,725,614 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

4 ( #167,236 of 1,725,614 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.