World Religions and Democracy: The Ironies of Confucianism

Issue Date July 2004
Volume 15
Issue 3
Page Numbers 93-107
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The teachings of Confucius and the heritage of Confucianism in East Asian societies such as Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Singapore have encouraged loyalty to the state, including the modernizing nation-state. Such modernization, at least when it has taken the form of market-based, capitalist economic growth or development, has aided democratization. Confucianism guards no special sphere of conscience against the state in the way that some other spiritual traditions have, but the Confucian tradition sponsors no fundamentalisms and has even been a protoliberal influence. Its career has been ironic, but it has not hurt and may even have helped democracy.