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POL3114 (8)

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University of Ottawa
Political Science
David Rangdrol

There have been a number of failed prodemocracy movements in China Thailand and Burma but even these cases reveal a link between development and democracy In the Chinese and Thai cases in particular the leaders of the prodemocracy movements tended to be relatively well educated middleclass and cosmopolitan citizensthe type of individual that began to emerge during earlier periods of rapid economic growthThe relationship between economic modernization and democracy is therefore indirect Economic modernization raises living and educational standards and liberates people from a certain kind of fear brought on by life close to the subsistence level This permits people to pursue a broader range of goals including those that remained latent in earlier stages of economic development Among those latent urges is the desire to be recognized as an adult with a certain basic human dignitya recognition that is achieved through participation in the political systemIt is evident that there is not a single path to modernity the late modernizers have taken a very different route to development with the state playing a more powerful role than earlier onesAlmost no scholarly disagreement exists regarding the proposition that traditional Confucianism was either undemocratic or antidemocraticClassic Chinese Confucianism and its derivatives in Korea Vietnam Singapore Taiwan and in diluted fashion Japan emphasized the group over the individual authority over liberty and responsibilities over rights Confucian societies lacked a tradition of rights against the state to the extent that individual rights did exist they were created by the state Harmony and cooperation were preferred over disagreement and competition The maintenance of order and respect for hierarchy were central values The conflict of ideas groups and parties was viewed as dangerous and illegitimate Most important Confucianism merged society and the state and provided no legitimacy for autonomous social institutions at the national level In my view the arguments of both Huntington and Lee greatly overstate the obstacles that Confucianism poses to the spread of a political system that is recognizably democratic in a Western sense The most striking area of apparent incompatibility between democracy and Confucianism is the latters lack of support for individualism or a transcendent law that would stand above existing social relationships and provide the ground for individual conscience as the ultimate source of authority Despite this important difference it is not clear that a Confucian society is incapable of creating workable democratic institutions that meet democracys essential requirementsLet us begin with the ways in which Confucianism is obviously compatible with democracy First the traditional Confucian examination system was a meritocratic institution with potentially egalitarian implications In traditional China the examination system was notfor various reasonstruly open to all who were qualified neither of course are Harvard and YaleThe second main area of compatibility is the Confucian emphasis on education itself Although an educated populace is seldom noted as a formal requirement of democracy in practice a societys general level of education has been an important underpinning of democratic institutions Without
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