Since the very beginning, Confucianism has been troubled by a serious gap between its political ideals and the reality of societal circumstances. Contemporary Confucians must develop a viable method of governance that can retain the spirit of the Confucian ideal while tackling problems arising from nonideal modern situations. The best way to meet this challenge, Joseph Chan argues, is to adopt liberal democratic institutions that are shaped by the Confucian conception of the good rather than the liberal conception of the right.
Confucian Perfectionism examines and reconstructs both Confucian political thought and liberal democratic institutions, blending them to form a new Confucian political philosophy. Chan decouples liberal democratic institutions from their popular liberal philosophical foundations in fundamental moral rights, such as popular sovereignty, political equality, and individual sovereignty. Instead, he grounds them on Confucian principles and redefines their roles and functions, thus mixing Confucianism with liberal democratic institutions in a way that strengthens both. Then he explores the implications of this new yet traditional political philosophy for fundamental issues in modern politics, including authority, democracy, human rights, civil liberties, and social justice.
Confucian Perfectionism critically reconfigures the Confucian political philosophy of the classical period for the contemporary era.
Joseph Chan is a professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong.
"[T]he political vision that emerges from the pages of this book is reasonable, humane and inspiring."--Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"Chan has created a very interesting work in the Confucian tradition of revival and reinterpretations for current times."--Choice
"This splendid book makes a powerful case that Confucianism has much to contribute to contemporary political thought and practice the world over. With clear and careful argumentation, Chan shows that Confucian perfectionist ideals retain their attractiveness in the present day and that new kinds of institutions are needed to best realize these ideals in our modern world."--Stephen C. Angle, Wesleyan University
"Joseph Chan is one of the most sophisticated and insightful people working not only to understand traditional Confucian political philosophy but also to develop it as a powerful and attractive view for the modern world."--Philip J. Ivanhoe, City University of Hong Kong
"This book introduces an exciting new element to contemporary democratic theory--the integration of key concepts drawn from Confucianism and adapted for the modern world. With its stimulating arguments, the book has the potential to have great influence in Asia and shake up democratic theory in the West."--Jane Mansbridge, Harvard Kennedy School
"This original and important book is a fresh effort to use Confucian ideas to help us recognize, understand, and perhaps, address problems in our own democracy."--Archon Fung, Harvard Kennedy School
Table of Contents:
Foreword by Series Editor ix
Introduction. Interplay between the Political Ideal and Reality 1
PART I. Political Authority and Institution 25
Chapter 1. What Is Political Authority? 27
Chapter 2. Monism or Limited Government? 46
Chapter 3. The Role of Institution 65
Chapter 4. Mixing Confucianism and Democracy 81
PART II. Rights, Liberties, and Justice 111
Chapter 5. Human Rights as a Fallback Apparatus 113
Chapter 6. Individual Autonomy and Civil Liberties 131
Chapter 7. Social Justice as Sufficiency for All 160
Chapter 8. Social Welfare and Care 178
Conclusion. Confucian Political Perfectionism 191
Appendix 1: Notes on Scope and Methods 205
Appendix 2: Against the Ownership Conception of Authority 213