Political Confucianism and the Politics of Confucian Studies

Eske J. Møllgaard, University of Rhode Island


Through the 1980s Confucian studies in the United States tended to present Confucianism as compatible with liberal democratic values. Since the 1990s, after the rise of China as a global power, Confucianism is increasingly defended as a political alternative to liberal and democratic values. This essay argues that Confucianism is not compatible with liberal democratic values, and that the rise of political Confucianism opposed to liberal democracy is a return to a more authentic Confucianism. Furthermore, it is argued that the defense of this undemocratic and illiberal Confucianism in the West, notably by Stephen C. Angle and Daniel A. Bell, reflects and reveals the precarious state of democracy in our present historical moment.