Confucian Political Theory

Confucian Political Theory

Conveners:

Elton Chan (ynccwce@nus.edu.sg)

Larry Lai (lcblai@hku.hk)

Baldwin Wong (bwwong@cuhk.edu.hk)

In recent years there has been an increasing interest among Anglo-American political theorists in comparing the diverse ways of how the Western and Chinese thinkers address political issues. Several academic publishers (such as Cambridge University Press and Princeton University Press) and journals (such as European Journal of Political Theory 15(4)) begin to publish books and articles about Confucianism. Unlike the past generation of thinkers, such as Theodore de Bary and Tu Wei Ming, who aimed to show that Confucianism is not necessarily tied to authoritarianism but in many ways compatible with western liberal democratic values, some contemporary political theorists (Jiang 2012, Bell 2006, 2016) argue that Confucianism offers a distinctive alternative to liberal democracy, which enables us to reflect on the liberal democratic values that are usually taken for granted. While some political theorists do recognize liberal democratic values, they believe that Confucianism can offer insights to revolve problems that worry current liberal democratic societies (Chan 2014, Angle 2012). The growing body of literature can be found in these years.

Nevertheless, many questions in this area lack satisfactory answers. For instance, given the long valuable tradition of Confucian meritocracy, its implication to current liberal democracy remains unclear. Should it be transformed into a selective method of bureaucratic officials in a liberal democratic society? Or does it offer an alternative, meritocratic regime that is a better institution in guaranteeing good governance? Also, there has been an increasing focus on the issue of leadership (Chan and Chan 2014, Angle 2016). Unlike the Western view of leadership which sees leaders as charming genius (such as Winston Churchill), the Confucian view of leadership requests leaders to excel in ordinary aspects of being human. Does the Confucian view help us rethink what a democratic leader should be? Furthermore, recently Kim Sungmoon (2016) argues that, in Eastern Asian societies which have a Confucian background culture (such as South Korea), Confucian perfectionist reasons can be invoked as public reasons to justify laws and policies. Does it imply that the practice of public reason varies in different cultural contexts? Should a state remain neutral even in these Eastern Asian societies?

This workshop aims to facilitate dialogue among political theorists working on this broad topic, and explore the different issues that have been identified as well as the various approaches we can adopt, for the sake of broadening our imagination of political practice. Possible topics could include, but not limit to:

  • Liberal democracy and Confucian meritocracy
  • The Confucian idea of leadership
  • The rule of law and Confucianism
  • Public Reason in Confucian societies
  • The Confucian ideas of legitimacy and authority  
  • Distributive justice and Confucian sufficientarianism
  • Civic education and the cultivation of Confucian virtues
  • Perfectionist policies (e.g. art funding) and Confucianism
  • Confucian rituals in contemporary societies
  • Human rights and Confucianism

Besides, we particularly encourage contributions that address topics that have been neglected so far or consider established interpretations and arguments from a different angle.

Abstracts should be 500-1000 words, prepared for blind review. Please send your abstract and contact details to confucianpt.mancept2017@gmail.com, by 26th May, 2017. Decision will be made by 9th June, allowing graduate students and retirees who have been accepted to apply to the organizers for a bursary (the deadline for which is 16th June 2017).

Upon acceptance, we will ask all speakers to pre-circulate their papers amongst participants one week before the workshop. We will allocate around 60 minutes to each paper, with presentations of 30 minutes and 30 minutes of Q&A.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Baldwin Wong (bwwong@cuhk.edu.hk) Elton Chan (ynccwce@nus.edu.sg) or Larry Lai (lcblai@hku.hk).