Democracy and Meritocracy: A New Intercivilizational Challenge

  • Vittorio Cotesta


This chapter analyzes the data given by Freedom House in its 2015 Report. There are now 125 electoral democracies; in 1989 there were 69, giving a growth rate of 25% among the 195 member countries of the United Nations. In the last few years the distribution of countries between “free,” “partially free” and “not free” is unchanged.

The diffusion of human rights and democracy throughout the world is an ambiguous phenomenon: human rights and democracy are differently conceived in each culture and civilization. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) human rights are qualities of human beings independently of their race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. In the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights (1981) “Human rights … are firmly rooted in the belief that God, and God alone, is the Law Giver and the Source of all human rights” (Foreword). In the Arab Charter on Human Rights there is an analogous statement about the origin of human rights.

In the African renaissance there is an autonomous foundation of human rights. Human rights are conceived as the best expression of Akan and Ubuntu culture. In the same time, the authors analyzed in this chapter propose a firm refusal of the Westminster model and a strong preference for the Consensus model of democracy. Family is the basis for a consensus or deliberative democracy.

In the Confucian renaissance there is not only a new proposition of Confucianism as a philosophical vision of the world but also a new perspective on human rights. The theses of Political Confucianism may be so summarized: (1) human rights are best founded in the Confucian vision of the world; (2) Chinese meritocracy as a form of government is better than the Western model of democracy; (3) the global order can be best construed through tanxia (all that is under the sky) philosophy than through the Western vision of international relations. The Western vision is based on the hierarchy of nation-state, communities and individuals; the Chinese proposal is for the hierarchy of tianxia, states and families. Family ties are the basis for a construction of a new global order. On this basis—some say—the two political traditions of tianxia and agora can encounter each other.

In his conclusions, the author observes that these challenges for the Western vision of humanity, of its rights and democratic form of rule, concerns the global (international) scene but also the local—internal to each society. Cultural pluralism is a universal phenomenon. Peace and order can be guaranteed only by dialogue. But for authentic dialogue it is necessary to abandon reciprocal prejudices, from the Westerners towards Asiatic, African and Islamic peoples but also from the Islamic, African and Asiatic populations towards Westerners.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vittorio Cotesta
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EducationUniversità degli Studi Roma TreRomeItaly

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