Confucian political philosophy, China and the USA

This video is the trailer of the film Confucius.

By Ben Chacko in Britain:

Contemporary Confucian Political Philosophy
by Stephen C Angle

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Confucius is making a comeback, or so we often hear. The “sage” born in 551 BC, whose teachings inspired the ideology of the Chinese empire for over 2,000 years, has returned to favour.

Confucian self-help books sell millions of copies, China’s intellectuals have begun to note a resurgence of Confucian phraseology from the government – Hu Jintao‘s “harmonious society,” for example – and the People’s Republic seeks to promote its image abroad by setting up Confucius institutes.

Does this represent a genuine political movement, or is Confucius simply a badge of culture in a confident country no longer ashamed of its past? If there is a revival of “popular” Confucianism, what’s causing it?

These are interesting questions but Stephen Angle’s book doesn’t tackle them. Contemporary Confucian Political Philosophy is not even an overview of the various currents in modern Confucian thinking although the reader will learn a reasonable amount about them.

Angle regards himself as a Confucian philosopher and the book seeks to outline how he believes Confucianism can be a relevant political ideology in the modern world.

This is ultimately a book written by a Confucian academic for Confucian academics. The reader unfamiliar with the philosophy will find it hard going – indeed, Angle’s clarificationn of his terminology by using Classical Chinese terms in brackets shows that his audience is a niche one.

Before arguing about whether Confucianism is compatible with democracy, human rights or gender equality we might expect some argument as to whether reviving the ideology is necessary or desirable – not that it definitely isn’t but here this is simply assumed.

And the fact that the “modern” political culture to which he seeks to adapt it is essentially that of his native US rather than China makes his pie-in-the-sky discussion as to what a modern Confucian state would look like even more speculative.

Angle is a fluid and interesting writer and this book will engage its scholarly audience. But for those interested in what’s really going on in China it has little to say.