A Pluralist Reconstruction of Confucian Democracy

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In this paper, I attempt to revamp Confucian democracy, which is originally presented as the communitarian corrective and cultural alternative to Western liberal democracy, into a robust democratic political theory and practice that is plausible in the societal context of pluralism. In order to do so, I first investigate the core tenets of value pluralism with reference to William Galston's political theory, which gives full attention to the intrinsic value of diversity and human plurality particularly in the modern democratic context. I then construct a political theory of Confucian pluralist democracy by critically engaging with two dominant versions of Confucian democracy-Confucian communitarian democracy and Confucian meritocratic democracy. My key argument is threefold: (1) the unity in Confucian democracy should be interpreted not as moral unity but as constitutional unity; (2) Confucian virtues should be differentiated (or pluralized) between moral virtues and civic virtues; (3) in Confucian democracy minorities have the constitutional right to contest public norms in civil society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-336
Number of pages22
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Sep

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgement I am grateful to Philip J. Ivanhoe, Sung Ho Kim, and two anonymous reviewers for their critical yet constructive comments. The research for this essay is supported by City University of Hong Kong’s Start-Up Grant for new staff (Project NO.: 7200238).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy


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