The excesses of Western-style individualism and democracy can be moderated through application of a few of the Confucian values. For instance, filial piety and social/moral responsibilities towards an individual's role in the social hierarchy can bring about a greater awareness about an individual's obligations towards previous generations as well as look beyond the confines of self-interests to embrace the interests of the community as a whole. This can also act as a successful deterrent to some types of political liberalism which prioritize individual rights with absolutely no concern for the cultural and social context which are essential for the expression of those rights. (Fetzer; Soper, 148)
Confucianism calls for infusing an ethical fabric into the political realm and not the abuse of political might to enforce ethical life. Confucian hierarchy, at no point of time, deviates from the fundamental respect that humanity or human relations demand. According to scholars like Ouyang Xiu, Confucianism has never backed a constant or static standpoint on political authority or life. Confucian hierarchy does not support the abuse of political power; instead it supports a social order system in which people at all levels of the hierarchy including the people and political authorities conduct their lives as per rites which advise the principles of morality. (Ackerly, 572)
It has been suggested that Confucianism and democracy are definitely not incompatible partners but are subject to the manipulations of narrow-minded selfish political leaders. Most political and social philosophies put forward for the betterment of human society have been subjected to distortion ranging from the mild to the very extreme by diverse interpreters and so-called guardians of society. Therefore, a much more balanced viewpoint with logical interpretations is required keeping social harmony and regional context in mind. (Fetzer; Soper, 151)
However, Confucianism is not restricted only to the region in which it was conceived. The value of "ren" or humaneness is similar to the ideals espoused by Western human rights. Some social scientists have observed that Confucian societies have survived through a range of political environments and can boast of a degree of toleration that was not seen at a similar level in Islam or Christianity. Developing an international cross-cultural political theory requires critical and deliberative thought with inputs from various rich sources of which Confucianism is particularly significant. (Ackerly, 574)
If Confucian political thought is democratically interpreted, it may lead to the following three ideas which may be particularly significant in the international political domain: (a) the belief that people, in general, have the capability of "ren" (humaneness), and thus can become "potentially virtuous contributors to political life," (b) the belief that the institutions of economic, social and political life work in a manner that that helps to cultivate "the virtue of being a perfected human being," (c) the belief that there will be ample public opportunities for political criticism as well as for a continuous contestation about the behavior, responsibilities, and duties at all levels of the hierarchy starting from the ordinary citizen to the top official along with the working of the institutions which are responsible for the development of that behavior. (Ackerly, 574) Given the conditions in which Confucianism developed, it was a highly advanced form of socio-political philosophy and it simply has to be re-interpreted in the perspective of the modern-globalized world.
Ackerly, Booke. A. Is Liberalism the only way toward democracy? Political Theory, vol. 33, no. 4, August 2005, pp: 547-576.
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