The limits of irony: Rorty and the china challenge

Philosophy East and West 50 (1):56-89 (2000)

Abstract
The PRC has often criticized Western human rights policies based in part on the claim that liberal democracy and human rights are nothing more than the culturally contingent by-product of Enlightenment Europe incompatible with China's cultural and political traditions and out of step with contemporary circumstances in the PRC. Recently, Richard Rorty has offered a pragmatic alternative to liberal democracy and human rights founded on the universal claims and metaphysical assumptions of the Enlightenment. At the same time, Rorty remains unabashedly ethnocentric, asserting the superiority of ironic liberalism and "our" culture of rights. Whether his liberalism and rights culture stripped of its foundational and universal baggage will prove any more congenial to the development of liberal democracy and individual rights in China than its Enlightenment parent is examined here
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