Modern Intellectual History 17 (2):527-542 (2020)

How and why are universalist modes of political thought transformed into culturally essentialist and exclusionary practices of governance and law? This article considers this question by analyzing the interaction between Confucianism and liberalism in East Asia. It argues that liberalism, particularly as it was used in attacking Confucianism, was instrumental in embedding ideas of cultural particularism and cultural essentialism in the emergence of modern political thought and law in both China and Japan. Both Confucianism and liberalism are self-imagined as universalist traditions, theoretically applicable to all global societies. Yet in practice both have regularly been defined in culturally determined, culturally exclusivist terms: Confucianism as “Chinese,” liberalism as “British” or “Western.” The meeting of Confucian and liberal visions of universalism and globalism in nineteenth-century East Asia provides an intriguing case study for considering the interaction between universalism and cultural exclusivism. This article focuses on the role of nineteenth-century global liberalism in attacks upon the previous Confucian order in East Asia, demonstrating the complicity of liberalism in new, culturally essentialist and particularist constructions of governance and law in both China and Japan.
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DOI 10.1017/s1479244318000240
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What Is Liberalism?Duncan Bell - 2014 - Political Theory 42 (6):682-715.

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