Philosophy East and West 59 (4):537-553 (2009)

It is often remarked that East Asian polities have been hierarchical and the “elite” category continues to figure prominently in works on Chinese society and politics. Many scholars believe that hierarchy and elitism are deeply rooted in Confucianism, which served as the state orthodoxy in imperial China and provided the “psycho-cultural construct” of the way of life in other East Asian cultural communities as well. It is therefore not surprising that some should believe that if modern Confucian societies are to be democratic at all, elitism must be reconciled with democracy. In contrast, elitism is commonly a pejorative term in liberal democracies today, especially the United States, notwithstanding the portrayal of these polities by political scientists as cases of “democratic elitism.”
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DOI 10.1353/pew.0.0080
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