Confucianism v. Democracy

Essay by Elaine4467College, UndergraduateA+, February 2007

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Although originally a scholarly practice and moral philosophy, Confucianism has been applied to many aspects of Chinese society. Its principles have infiltrated familial relations, social structures, religious institutions, and political systems. The application of Confucianism in politics has, in particular, undergone the most flux throughout the ages. Confucianism was never adopted during the life of Confucius and was forbidden during the Qin dynasty. However, Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty chose it as the political system to govern China. Its political standing has wavered as different forms of government have taken hold in China. Most recently, Confucianism and democracy have been closely examined in relation to each other. It is commonly believed that the two political ideologies are complete antitheses; however, this is not entirely true. Although there are many areas where the two doctrines diverge, there are also areas that they coincide. In this paper, I will elucidate the similarities and differences between the philosophies that surround democracy and Confucianism.

An obvious problem in comparing democracy and Confucianism is that neither is clearly defined. Throughout their long histories, both doctrines have facilitated the construction of varying conceptions, ideologies, and institutions. I will first give a general definition of the two in order to assist in comparing and contrasting them. A democracy is a form of government in which all citizens have an equal voice in shaping policy. Its goal is to preserve the principles of individual rights and competitive political institutions ("Democracy, n.d.). Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system comprised of moral, social, political, and religious values. It stresses humaneness, the true gentleman, filial piety, and the rectification of names ("Confucianism, n.d.). Using these definitions as a foundation, l will discuss the similarities and differences between the two.

Confucianism and democracy conflict in many...