Confucianism, the Idea of Min-Pen, and the Democracy

A. T. Nuyen


With few exceptions, it is believed that Confucianism is incompatible
with democracy. The 'incompatibility thesis' has
attained the status of near orthodoxy. It is shared by commentators
who are hostile as well as those sympathetic to Chinese
culture generally and to Confucianism in particular. The arguments
for incompatibility typically stress the differences between
on the one hand 'democratic values' such as liberty,
equality and plurality, and on the other 'Confucian values' such
as duty, responsibility and loyalty. Having challenged the arguments
for incompatibility by showing that the differences
between so-called democratic values and Confucian values are
in fact greatly exaggerated, the paper proceeds to discuss the
significance of the Confucian idea of min-pen (or min-ben,
people as roots). The aim is to show that philosophical Confucianism
is not only not an obstacle to democracy but could well
be the foundation thereof. The argument will then be further
reinforced by revisiting the old 'modernization thesis.'

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Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies
ISSN (print): 1395-4199, ISSN (online): 2246-2163

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