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Confucian democracy as popular sovereignty

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Is Confucian democracy philosophically justifiable? In recent decades, prominent Confucian theorists have answered this question in the negative, arguing that the political system that is consistent with Confucianism is political meritocracy or elite rule. This position presupposes an antithetical relation between democracy and Confucianism. In order to counter such a position, this article proposes a philosophically justifiable normative conception of Confucian democracy. By carefully examining democracy theories of Jean Jacques Rousseau and Carl Schmitt in the civic humanist republican tradition and Confucian political philosophy in the Mencian tradition, this article demonstrates that the substantive value of democracy as popular sovereignty is a fundamental idea undergirding and safeguarding the ideal Confucian politics.

Keywords: Mencius; Rousseau; Schmitt; confucian democracy; min-ben; political equality; popular sovereignty

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Philosophy Department, Bentley University, Waltham, MA, USA

Publication date: July 3, 2019

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