Confucianism and Totalitarianism: An Arendtian Reconsideration of Mencius versus Xunzi

Philosophy East and West 71 (4):981-1004 (2021)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Totalitarianism is perhaps unanimously regarded as one of the greatest political evils of the last century and has been the grounds for much of Anglo-American political theory since. Confucianism, meanwhile, has been gaining credibility in the past decades among sympathizers of democratic theory in spite of criticisms of it being anti-democratic or authoritarian. I consider how certain key concepts in the classical Confucian texts of the Mencius and the Xunzi might or might not be appropriated for ‘legitimising’ totalitarian regimes. Under an Arendtian approach to understanding totalitarianism, it is precisely an unproblematised relation to a normative History and Nature that underlies the potential compatibility or incompatibility. I argue against a longstanding prejudice that if any form of Confucianism would be totalitarian, it would have to be Xunzian. Against this, I hope to show that if any form of Confucianism would be totalitarian, it might well be a naturalistic Mencian Confucianism instead of a constructivist Xunzian one.

Similar books and articles

A mencian version of limited democracy.Tongdong Bai - 2008 - Res Publica 14 (1):19-34.
Politics and Interest in Early Confucianism.Sungmoon Kim - 2014 - Philosophy East and West 64 (2):425-448.
Equality and Inequality in Confucianism.Chenyang Li - 2012 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 11 (3):295-313.
The Mencius-Xunzi Debate in Early Confucian Ethics.Aaron Stalnaker - 2008 - In Jeffrey L. Richey (ed.), Teaching Confucianism. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 85.
Two Visions of Confucianism: Mencius and Xunzi.Siufu Tang - 2023 - In Yang Xiao & Kim-Chong Chong (eds.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Mencius. Springer. pp. 99-118.


Added to PP

694 (#25,288)

6 months
184 (#17,449)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Political Liberalism.John Rawls - 1993 - Columbia University Press.
Mencius.D. C. Lau - 1984 - Penguin Classics. Edited by D. C. Lau.

View all 25 references / Add more references