, Volume 19, Issue 2-3, pp 201-220

A Dualistic Model of Harmony and its Implications for Conflict Management in Asia

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Conflict avoidance is common in East Asia, and the Confucian notion of harmony is often invoked to explain this tendency. We review the classical Confucian doctrines and found no encouragement of conflict avoidance in Confucian teachings. Quite the contrary, the Confucian notion of harmony embodies disagreement and open debates. Thus, we argue that harmony as conflict avoidance is not a main feature of classical Confucianism, but a characteristic of the secular version that is associated with cultural collectivism. We then review several theories that are based on the notion of harmony, and show that they are compatible with a dualistic model of harmony, which posits an instrumental as well as a value motive in harmony-seeking behavior. In the instrumental perspective, harmony is viewed as a means to a typically materialistic end, whereas in the value perspective, harmony is deemed an end in its own right. Conflict avoidance is primarily driven by the instrumental motive. These two motives are then crossed to form four types of harmony-seeking behaviors. This typology is discussed in terms of its implications for future research and its applications in conflict management.