Exemplary paternalism: a consideration of Confucian models of moral oversight

Flavel, S and Hall, B (2020) 'Exemplary paternalism: a consideration of Confucian models of moral oversight.' Culture and Dialogue, 8 (2). pp. 220-250. ISSN 2468-3949

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1163/24683949-12340085


In this article we examine Classical Confucian political thinking through the lens of paternalism. We situate Confucianism amid contemporary models of paternalism to show that Confucianism can be understood as a soft form of paternalism regarding its method. Confucianism stresses cultivation of the people by moral exemplars to guide the people to act in ways that are in their own best interests. This is in contrast to use of law and punishment as a deterrent of unwanted behaviours of the people. We demonstrate that Confucian paternalism does not advocate for a static top-down structure of governance that is incapable of reform, underscoring its non-authoritarian ideal. We do this by stressing the vital upward momentum constituted in general cultivation of the wider population utilizing li (rituals). The picture that emerges from an examination of Confucian political thought through the lens of paternalism is what we name “exemplary paternalism.”

Item Type: Article
Keywords: paternalism, Confucian political philosophy, political paternalism, Confucian politics, exemplary paternalism
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1163/24683949-12340085
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2020 12:48
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:55
URI / Page ID: https://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/13603
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