Loughborough University
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Confucianism and capitalist development in the East Asian newly industrialised societies

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posted on 2010-12-01, 09:59 authored by Kuan Li
The immediate concern of this thesis is to understand the role played by Confucianism in the capitalist development of the East Asian NISs. In pursuit of this aim, it focuses on the relationship between Confucian political philosophy and state intervention in economic activities, on Confucian family practice and its links to modem organisations, on the Confucian emphasis on frugality and hard work and the work ethic, and on the Confucian stress on knowledge and high level modem education. It contends that through these mechanisms contemporary Confucian values have helped to facilitate the development of capitalist order and economic growth in the East Asian NISs. The thesis also explores the Confucian tradition and its modern transformations. It traces the historical evolution of Confucianism and shows how, more recently, it has changed in response to the challenge of capitalist development. It further identifies the contemporary forms of Confucian values and illustrates their variations across different East Asian societies. This line of enquiry is pursued empirically through an analysis of the development of Confucian themes in one of the principal spaces for public commentary and debate on economic, social and political issues - the popular press. The present analysis is one of the first to investigate the practical deployment of Confucian themes in everyday public discourse. The thesis approaches the questions in a Weberian tradition, which takes culture as an explanatory variable in social change, and recognises the influence of socioeconomic conditions on cultural change at the same time. It believes that change is an integrated process which involves all sectors of society. During this process cultural, social, political and economic forces compete and interact with each other within the specific contexts that conditioned the change. The capitalist development in the East Asian NISs is a process which involves the interaction between Confucianism and capitalism. Capitalism failed to develop in the Far East when it first emerged, due to the inhibitions of traditional Confucianism. But after it had triumphed in the West and been introduced to these societies by the colonisers, Confucianism could no longer resist the force of capitalist modernity, it had no choice but to adapt to the new situations. As a result, Confucian culture absorbed the idea of profit seeking, competition and rationalisation of economic activity, but retained its emphasis on collectiveness, family, and harmony. Combined with the continuing Confucian emphasis on education, merit, hard work, discipline and high achievement motivation, these values form a potent underpinning for economic growth. And this force has given rise to a special kind of capitalism in the East Asian NISs.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Kuan Li

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en