Why Confucian Meritocrats Must Be Democrats: Contesting Non-political Human Rights

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After a decades-long debate on the compatibility between Confucianism and human rights, Confucian political theorists now seem to generally agree that the fallback theory of rights provides an account of human rights acceptable to both sides of the debate. Interestingly, some Confucian political meritocrats make a distinction between non-political human rights and political rights, and argue that while the former are subject to the fallback theory of rights, the latter are subject to the so-called “service conception” of rights, which authorizes political hierarchy among citizens. After identifying the irresolvable tension between the fallback theory of rights and the service conception of political rights as a critical threat to Confucian political meritocracy’s internal stability, this article suggests that Confucian political meritocracy can overcome the instability problem only by taking seriously the political implications of the fallback theory of rights, which entails the endorsement of the right to political participation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalContemporary Political Theory
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was fully supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (CityU 11605919).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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