Political Philosophy in the Global South: Harmony in Africa, East Asia, and South America

In Uchenna Okeja (ed.), Routledge Handbook of African Political Philosophy. Routledge (forthcoming)

Thaddeus Metz
University of Pretoria
Harmony as a central or basic value is neglected in globally influential philosophical discussions about rights, power, and other facets of public policy; it is not prominent in articles that appear in widely read journals or in books published by presses with a global reach. In particular, the field remains ignorant of the similarities and differences between various harmony-oriented approaches to political philosophy from around the world. In this chapter, I begin to rectify these deficiencies by critically discussing the way harmony has figured into political philosophies from three major traditions in the Global South, namely, African ubuntu, East Asian Confucianism, and South American buen vivir. I point out that, although harmony is central to all three political philosophies, it is conceived in different ways, entailing incompatible prescriptions about things such as who should make laws and which sorts of beings have rights against the state. Such contrasting views call for rigorous cross-cultural dialogue amongst friends of harmony, beyond mounting challenges to more individualist approaches that have been salient in Western normative philosophy.
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