11.3 Confucianism today and the future of the ideology

Dr. Logan Masilamani

The main driver of present-day Confucianism has been the economic prosperity it has delivered to China, the Four Dragons/Tigers and other countries in Southeast Asia and East Asia. These countries have had very successful modern economies. Further, such economic development strategies have been emulated by other countries in the region. Although they do not subscribe to some of the fundamental elements of Confucianism, these other countries have used some of its secondary economic tenets to prosper. Being successful on the economic side of things highlights the fact that these societies have welcomed and embraced a form of Confucianism in many ways.

Thus, it seems that Confucianism has a bright future for many centuries to come. The advocates of New Confucianism are confident in the superiority of Confucianism to Western moral philosophy, but they are also ready to acknowledge the value of Western democracy as a political institution. They are thus attempting to combine Confucianism and democracy in a creative way so that the blended formula can preserve Confucian ethics and democratize politics at the same time.

A practical question that is often asked is whether there a place for this ideology in the modern world. The answer should be a resounding yes. The Asian century could not have taken place without relying on Confucianism as an ideology either in part or whole. The economic blossoming of the Four Dragons/Tigers and China did not take place accidentally; it occurred because of the use of some of the main tenets of Confucianism. I think a more interesting question would be whether Confucianism can co-exist with Western thought and ideals. Scholars in various countries are currently asking this question as well.

Confucian values have become synonymous with Asian values. Thus, there seems to great practical use of the main tenets of the ideology. I would also mention that the foundational notion of various Asian religions makes it easier to accommodate the tenets of Confucianism. In Singapore, political leaders have cautioned Singaporeans against assimilating alien values and becoming a pseudo‐Western society. They have called for a set of national principles based on Asian values to guide Singaporeans into the next century.

Confucianism has a significant place compared with other ideologies of the past and the future. It is based on good human values and extends to building a good society. It has been used by societies to build cohesive entities that emphasize greater economic and social well-being. These ideas and concepts are simple in nature and easy to adopt, but like other ideologies the implementation of such ideas is the most important aspect. Thus, in the case of Confucianism, the leaders of the ideology have convinced the masses of the benefits of following Confucian ideals and practicing them day to day. Via campaigns, like in Singapore, to policies, as is the case in China, Confucianism has become entrenched in many of the countries in the Asian region. It has been so well executed in these countries that other countries are trying to establish their own well-being and economic prosperity based on Confucianism.

Further, the ideas and concepts professed by Confucius have been used by various Eastern and Western scholars. Concepts such as virtue, merit, good governance and benevolence can be seen within the ideologies of many other scholars. This demonstrates how this ancient ideology has tremendous relevance in the present day. Either directly or indirectly, Confucianism has a place in the modern world and should be studied from multiple perspectives. Confucius’s simple ideas can be connected to real life through contemporary examples.

Here is a short video on Confucius and Confucianism:

Discussion Questions

  1. Can China find a form of sustainable governance other than either the current authoritarian order or Western democratic institutions?
  2. Is Confucianism the ultimate solution for the political, social, and moral problems China faces today?
  3. What would be the best scheme for combining Confucianism and liberal democracy if their reconciliation is inevitable?
  4. How can China avoid the shortcomings of Western democracy if it is to undergo democratization?
  5. Can Confucianism contribute to Western democracy and world politics? And if so, in what way?



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Political Ideologies and Worldviews: An Introduction Copyright © 2021 by Dr. Logan Masilamani is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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