Confusing Confucius in Asian values? A constructivist critique

2015-04-17T10:05:11Z (GMT) by Taku Tamaki
It is tempting to interpret Confucius as a Realist who believes in coercion as a means of achieving good governance. Parallels can readily be drawn between him and Machiavelli, with ren fusing with virtú to represent Confucius as obsessed with power and authority. Southeast Asian leaders compound the problem by misappropriating the Sage to justify their intolerance for dissent within the `Asian values' discourse. This article seeks to reveal a glimpse of Confucius that has been missing in IR literature: that of Confucius as a Constructivist. I argue that ren needs to be translated as honesty — a behavioural norm required of a responsible member of society. Applied to IR, ren not only espouses normative presumptions, but also a realisation of the crucial role played by intersubjectivity in social interactions. This article then uses `Confucian' Constructivism to critique `Asian values'.