Self-cultivation and the legitimation of power: Governing China through education

Educational Philosophy and Theory 50 (13):1192-1202 (2017)

Abstract

A revival of Confucianism in post-Mao China helped the government legitimate its power in the face of a new socio-political and economic situation. This paper specifically explores the role of Confucian self-cultivation in China’s governance. Drawing on Beetham’s theory of legitimation of power and Weber’s tri-typology of authority, we argue that self-cultivation, appealing to ingrained cultural values and traditions, fulfils the criteria of legitimation of power through two principles, namely, differentiation and community interest. In the context of suzhi education and China’s national university entrance exam, we interrogate tensions and paradoxes between the need for a presentation of modern and liberal authority and the CCP’s one-party rule. The paper illustrates the complexity of China’s authoritarianism and the intricacies and intrinsic relevance of self-cultivation in current practice.

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Nesta Devine
Auckland Institute of Technology

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