, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 427–443

Why Early Confucianism Cannot Generate Democracy


DOI: 10.1007/s11712-010-9187-9

Cite this article as:
Elstein, D. Dao (2010) 9: 427. doi:10.1007/s11712-010-9187-9


A central issue in Chinese philosophy today is the relationship between Confucianism and democracy. While some political figures have argued that Confucian values justify non-democratic forms of government, many scholars have argued that Confucianism can provide justification for democracy, though this Confucian democracy will differ substantially from liberal democracy. These scholars believe it is important for Chinese culture to develop its own conception of democracy using Confucian values, drawn mainly from Kongzi (Confucius) and Mengzi (Mencius), as the basis. This essay describes some obstacles to this form of Confucian democracy. It argues that considering the political philosophies of Kongzi and Mengzi in the context of their views on personal cultivation reveals that they oppose some of the central assumptions of democracy. They do not trust the public to make good decisions, and advocate government for the people, but not by the people. These philosophies alone cannot generate democracy.


Confucianism Democracy Kongzi Mengzi 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySUNY New PaltzNew PaltzUSA

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