Beyond Liberal Democracy

Beyond Liberal Democracy: Political Thinking for an East Asian Context

Daniel A. Bell
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Beyond Liberal Democracy
    Book Description:

    Is liberal democracy appropriate for East Asia? In this provocative book, Daniel Bell argues for morally legitimate alternatives to Western-style liberal democracy in the region.Beyond Liberal Democracy, which continues the author's influential earlier work, is divided into three parts that correspond to the three main hallmarks of liberal democracy--human rights, democracy, and capitalism. These features have been modified substantially during their transmission to East Asian societies that have been shaped by nonliberal practices and values. Bell points to the dangers of implementing Western-style models and proposes alternative justifications and practices that may be more appropriate for East Asian societies.

    If human rights, democracy, and capitalism are to take root and produce beneficial outcomes in East Asia, Bell argues, they must be adjusted to contemporary East Asian political and economic realities and to the values of nonliberal East Asian political traditions such as Confucianism and Legalism. Local knowledge is therefore essential for realistic and morally informed contributions to debates on political reform in the region, as well as for mutual learning and enrichment of political theories.

    Beyond Liberal Democracyis indispensable reading for students and scholars of political theory, Asian studies, and human rights, as well as anyone concerned about China's political and economic future and how Western governments and organizations should engage with China.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2746-6
    Subjects: Philosophy, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. 1 Introduction: One Size Doesn’t Fit All
    (pp. 1-20)

    In May 2002 the eminent American legal theorist Ronald Dworkin toured several Chinese universities and delivered lectures on human rights. The Chinese translation of his renowned bookTaking Rights Seriouslyhad been topping the best-seller lists for several weeks and his public lectures drew literally thousands of people. At the time, Professor Dworkin’s tour was compared to the visits to China eight decades ago by John Dewey and Bertrand Russell. China had once again been opening up to the West, and it looked like another opportunity for crosscultural exchanges and mutual learning by the leading intellectuals of “East” and “West.”...

  5. PART ONE Human Rights for an East Asian Context
    • 2 Just War and Confucianism: Implications for the Contemporary World
      (pp. 23-51)

      It might seem odd that the most modern of technologies—the Internet—should be filled with references to ancient Confucian thinkers. Yet that is exactly what happened in response to the Bush administration’s wars in/against Afghanistan and Iraq.² The theories of Confucians from what subsequently became known as the Warring States era were downloaded from computer to computer in Chinese-speaking households for the purpose of evaluating U.S foreign policy. But what exactly did classical Confucians say regarding just and unjust warfare? And does it make sense to invoke their ideas in today’s vastly different political world? Why not simply stick...

    • 3 Human Rights and “Values in Asia”: Reflections on East-West Dialogues
      (pp. 52-83)

      In the early 1990s the economic and social achievements of modernizing East Asian states became too conspicuous to ignore. Senior Asian statesmen such as Lee Kuan Yew and Dr. Mahathir trumpeted their high GNPs on the world stage, arguing that the “Asian miracle” rested on distinctive “Asian values.” The point was to cast doubt on the normative superiority of Western-style human rights and to question the desirability of exporting that model to East Asian societies. If Asians can do well with their own moral values and conceptions of political organization, then why should defenders of Western-style human rights seek to...

    • 4 The Ethical Challenges of International Human Rights NGOs: Reflections on Dialogues between Practitioners and Theorists
      (pp. 84-118)

      In traditional liberal theory, national governments were assumed to have the obligation to secure human rights for citizens.¹ Today, however, it is widely recognized that diverse institutions and groups, both higher (the UN, regional organizations) and lower (civil society, the family) than the state, can and should help with the task of implementing human rights. Perhaps the most visible (and controversial) of such nonstate actors are human rights and humanitarian INGOs,² agencies specifically entrusted with the task of making human rights real. They fund human rights projects, actively participate in human rights and humanitarian work, and criticize human rights violations...

  6. Part Two Democracy for an East Asian Context
    • 5 What’s Wrong with Active Citizenship? A Comparison of Physical Education in Ancient Greece and Ancient China
      (pp. 121-151)

      Immanuel Kant famously argued that “the problem of setting up a state can be solved even by a nation of devils.”¹ So long as the institutions are just, the self-seeking inclinations of individuals will be neutralized or eliminated. Today, however, it is widely recognized that democratic institutions are not sufficient for stable and effective democratic government. If people are narrowly self-interested and circumvent civic responsibilities whenever they have the opportunity to do so—evading taxes, refraining from voting, avoiding jury duty, deserting from the battlefield—democratic institutions will not last long or produce desirable results, no matter how beautifully they...

    • 6 Taking Elitism Seriously: Democracy with Confucian Characteristics
      (pp. 152-179)

      In the eyes of Singapore elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew, a “Confucianist view of order between subject and ruler helps in the rapid transformation of society . . . in other words, you fit yourself into society—the exact opposite of the American rights of the individual.”¹ A modern Confucian society ruled by wise and virtuous elites, that is, can provide the benefits of rapid economic growth and social peace, but it must sacrifice the democratic political rights that make government so difficult in the West. A leading American political scientist, Samuel Huntington, puts it more bluntly: a Confucian democracy...

    • 7 Is Democracy the “Least Bad” System for Minority Groups?
      (pp. 180-205)

      Taiwan is an apparent democratic success story. In 2000 the election of presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian represented the first democratic transition of power in Chinese history. In 2004 Chen was reelected in a bitterly fought contest, further institutionalizing democratic rule in Taiwan.¹ Today the press is free, there are almost daily manifestations of the freedom of assembly, and it is almost inconceivable to imagine that Taiwan could revert back to the “bad old days” of authoritarian rule under the Kuomintang (KMT).

      On the face of it, Taiwan should serve as a positive model for democratic reform in mainland China. Yet...

    • 8 Democratic Education in a Multicultural Context: Lessons from Singapore
      (pp. 206-228)

      The previous chapter pointed to an important flaw of Western-style democracy, conceived in the minimal sense of free and fair competitive elections along with the freedoms that make such elections meaningful. If the people are not inclined to tolerance and peace, then democracy won’t be sufficient for good government. And if people are too passive, they can easily be misled by political (and military) leaders into supporting policies that harm particular groups in their polity, if not electoral democracy itself (as in the extreme case of the Nazis who were brought into power by means of elections). The quality of...

  7. Part Three Capitalism for an East Asian Context
    • 9 Culture and Egalitarian Development: Confucian Constraints on Property Rights
      (pp. 231-254)

      East Asian states such as Japan and Korea have been widely praised for the combination of rapid economic development with increasingly egalitarian distributions of income. Even China, with its increasing inequality over the decade or so,¹ has done a near miraculous job of lifting millions of people out of poverty.² There are, of course, many economic and political reasons that help to explain East Asia’s economic achievements. However, policy decisions may have also been influenced by traditional philosophical outlooks. It would be foolish to posit a direct causal link between the sayings of Confucius and Mencius and policy outcomes, but...

    • 10 East Asian Capitalism in an Age of Globalization
      (pp. 255-280)

      In early 1998 the Asian economic crisis seemed to have dealt a fatal blow to the Asian economic model. U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan noted that the Asian crisis accelerated a worldwide move toward “the Western form of free market capitalism” and away from the competing Asian approach that only a few years ago looked like an attractive model for nations around the world. “What we have here is a very dramatic event towards a consensus of the type of market system which we have in this country.”¹ In English-language newspapers, business schools, investment banks and Anglo-American government...

    • 11 Justice for Migrant Workers? The Case of Migrant Domestic Workers in East Asia
      (pp. 281-322)

      Globalization is characterized by trade, capital, financial flows, as well as exchanges of people between increasingly porous national borders. An estimated 175 million people, or roughly 3 percent of the world’s population, currently reside outside their country of origin.¹ Cross-border migration is not a new phenomenon, but the rate of migration has been accelerating rapidly, more than doubling since 1965.² The patterns of international migration have also undergone considerable changes of late, the most important of which is the increased feminization of these flows. The large bulk of these female migrants originate from the poorer regions of the world, seeking...

    • 12 Responses to Critics: The Real and the Ideal
      (pp. 323-342)

      This book is divided into three parts—human rights, democracy, and capitalism—that correspond to the three main pillars of liberal democracy. I have tried to show the problems associated with transferring Western-style liberal ideas about human rights, democracy, and capitalism, and I argued for alternative justifications and practices appropriate for an East Asian context. My approach should not be too controversial: upon reflection, who can deny that political thinkers concerned with putting forward effective and respectful suggestions for political reform in East Asia need to consider empirical realities and the values of local traditions and allow for the possibility...

    (pp. 343-368)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 369-379)