Before a discussion of the ideological development of Confucianism in the global age begins, there are two important points that require clarification. First, it is problematic to apply the concept political ideology to Chinese circumstances, and second, Francis Fukuyama fails badly in his reading of Hegel and there is a need to rescue Hegel from his misreading. Only when these two points are clarified can the issue of Confucianism as “ideology” be more comprehensible.
We need to consider how ideology, oryishi xingtai, holds a different meaning in China. Confucianism or New and Neo- Confucianism qualify as political ideologies in China, but this is a more complicated case than one thinks. The Chinese have developed from a culture and tradition in which the conceptszhengzhi yishi xingtaiand Confucianism, or New and Neo-Confucianism, cannot be understood fully in western categories.
Tongbianis a distinctive mode of correlative thinking in the Chinese tradition based on a set of characteristics that outlines the parameters of a natural worldview in terms of continuity through change.It takes into consideration a variety of actual, specific, and dynamic historical phenomena in China. It is crucial to note that Chinese tradition has a clearly identifiable political thought that is distinctly Chinese but not necessarily uniquely Chinese. The following six statements are pertinent to Chinese political thought: (1) the worldview oftongbianis one of correlations andself-so-ing(self-moving, self-going, or self-doing). (2) The patterns of correlation are many and diverse, operating on many levels, in many dimensions, and in many categories. (3) Continuity is carried out through change, wherein the sky, the earth, and all things correlate with each other; humanity thus sees itself as continuous with nature through correlations as well as through a thorough understanding of nature. (4) Intongbianthere is no concept of God, but ratherdao(ways), or inner relations in and between everything. Humans depend entirely on themselves for developing their intelligence in comprehendingdao. (5) Change is itself an embodiment of continuity between things that are not strictly contrastive. (6)Tongbianis a way of constantly alternating between two things, changing into each other, exchanging with each other, displacing each other, and so on. The most salient feature oftongbianis that it is not God’s work but a complementary interaction between two elements of a polarity, such as yin-yang which constitutes the forces of change.
The explanation of the creative process in terms of the interaction of complementary opposition is fundamental in understanding Chinese tradition. In the absence of Western-style dualisms that establish an ontological separation between some determinative principle and that which it determines, the recognition of interconnectedness among all things promotes a correlative mode of philosophizing and of explaining order in the world. This tradition plays a facilitating role in one’s effort to understand politics in China.
Rescue Hegel from Fukuyama’s Last Ideology
In hisThe End of History and the Last ManFukuyama tries to make what happened in 1989 in China as a case in order to denote the death of communism and the victory of liberal democracy, promoting the theory of a single, coherent, evolutionary process toward the end of history and the importance of ideology. Extracting the ideas from G.W.F. Hegel, Fukuyama claims, firstly, that history undergoes a single, coherent evolutionary process; secondly, that the conflicts between ideologies constitute the dynamic of history; andthenthirdly, that liberal democracy may find itself "the end point of mankind's ideological evolution" and the "final form of human government."
Fukuyamadoes not give any thought, however, on whether Hegel's political thought needs to be understood in relation to the institutions and issues of its own time. Indeed, there is a need for a reestablishment of Hegel’s vision and an understanding from Hegel's philosophical perspective may possibly come from an extraction of his ideas of freedom, civil society, the state, right and morality, and world history. However, it is beyond the scope of this paper to elucidate this material. For further analysis one may refer to a paper I wrote for my philosophy course in 1992. Whatpertains to,is pertinenthere,is that the doctrine of democratic liberalism and Hegel's view of world history are themselves very problematic, though a critique of these is not the business of this paper. It should be pointed out that Fukuyama's claim about democratic liberalism as ‘Last Ideology’ is made upon a problematic extraction from Hegel’s theoretical assumptions. Moreover, of relevance to this paper is that the idea of ideology either in Hegel or in Fukuyama’s extraction bears no relevance to the case of Confucianism, even if it is discussed here in this paper in terms of “ideology.”
Confucianism under theConditions ofGlobalization
Confucianism is incapable of being discussed in terms of universal, cosmopolitan significance or having relations to abstract moral principles.At this point, the case of China is not so much that there are new theoretical “isms” in the global age as transformation of political ideologies.,but rather, as a result of globalization,there is development of new representations and terminology signifying a continuity of tradition.Globalization,which, asaccording toManfred Steger,defines,refersto a multidimensional set of social processes that create, multiply, stretch and intensify worldwide interdependences and exchanges while at the same time fostering in people a growing awareness of deepening connections between the local and distant.There is development of new representations and terminology signifying a continuity of tradition.What is new, or neo-, is not a matter of a new form of ideology but rather a new way to restate or reclaim tradition, which means, while the way is perhaps new, the power still lies in tradition;rujia sixiang, or Confucianism, is still fundamental and powerful.
1)The Power of Confucianism
The power of Confucianismcomes from its modality of correlative thinking,tongbian, which entails an ontology of events rather than that of substance, which derives itself froma worldview that does not need an abstract understanding of moral virtues. As David Hall and Roger Ames argue inThinking Through Confucius, the Confucians are primarily concerned with an explication of the activities of specific people in particular contexts. The Confucian characterization of a person in terms of events is expressed in a correlative pattern of the agent and his act. The situation is given primacy over agency. For them, all things in the world are inextricably interconnected with all other things and thus, any two things are said to be correlative to each other; each particular is both self-determinate and determined by every other particular. A polar explanation of relationships requires a contextual interpretation of the world in which events are strictly interdependent. This correlative polar metaphysic precludes the problematic dualistic mind/body conception.
Tongbianembeds many forms of thought in different periods of history, including the most powerful, Chinese Marxism and the non-mainstream Neo-Confucianism in modern times as well as the present-day popular liberalism and neo-liberalism, which developed in the past thirty-years of economic reform. All the three historical trends of thought, or “ideologies” as they would be named in the west, draw on tradition and adopttongbianas their worldview and thinking, thus making themselves distinguished fundamentally from any form of theory, doctrine, dogma, and ideology of western origin.Tongbianis powerful and available to Chinese intellectuals regardless of whatever school they claim they belong to in any particular period of history. It finds itself in both Chinese Marxism, calledbianzheng, or “dialectics,” and in Chinese liberalism that claims that the two systems (socialism and capitalism) under one state arexiangfan xiangcheng(contradictory yet complementary). Indeed, any new or neo- “ideology” could be a rendered version that still articulatestongbianin the language composed of new terminology.
What's new or 'neo' about Confucianism?
The concept of new (or neo-) Confucianism first appeared as early as the Song-Ming Dynasties (A.D. 1127-1279 and 1368-1644), that is,aslixue, theLiLearning. What was “new (neo-) about it? The newness (neo-ness) lies in that the major thinkers of the two dynasties advocated the idea ofli,whichwas a new terminology, which reclaimedtongbian, a process of continuity through change, in “old” Confucianism, and is found in thedaoanddeof the Confucian teaching.
Secondly, tTowardsthe end of the Qing Dynasty (A.D. 1644-1911) and with the intrusion of western powers and western thoughts, forover a century,the culture of “looking up to the West” has become hegemonic in China. To respond to the situation,Confucianism has assumed new façades since modern times. Then, what is “neo-” or (new) about the then Confucianism is, generally speaking, using western categories, or conceptual apparatus and schemes,inan attemptofata dialogue between East and West, or theorizing a new, modern system of Confucianism. In this case, the newness (or “neo-ness) lies in that they have all adoptednew western terminology, in examining, reclaiming and restructuring the “old” Confuciandao, or saytongbian.
For the third case, although many may regard Chinese Marxism as dual to Confucianism, there is no question, however, that a myriad of Chinese Marxist theoreticians such as Li Da, Qu Qiubai, Chen Weishi, Ai Siqi, and Mao Zedong also deserve credit for the creation of the new modern forms of Confucianism. As study shows, although superficially the mainstream of Chinese culture has been anti-traditional (anti-Confucianism), and the thinkers of different schools have had their sharply different discourses, almost all views, including Marxism and liberalism, have been articulated with the sametongbianmodality. As I argue inChinese Dialectics: From Yijing to Marxism, the Chinese understand Western thoughts in terms of their own intellectual tradition; that is, a reading of the west that was embedded in a worldview of correlations and a particular modality of correlative thinking.
As I mentioned in the last section, even “liberalism” and “neo-liberalism” in China have assumed a rendered version that articulatestongbianin a language composed of liberalism’s terms yet in Chinese translation.Tongbianstill remains available; the discourse of liberalism in China finds some of its roots in the Western ideology, but has read it in a different way. A careful examination of some key political concepts – rationality, rule of law, rights, democracy, etc. - obviously shows that, on the one hand, they are a typically western liberal democracy ideology; on the other hand, however, their translations are indeed new terminology still rooted intongbian.
The relationship between Confucianism and globalization
The Chinese “newness” or “neo-ness” about Confucianism is found in the sense oftongbianrather than the type of ideology in a Western sense. “Neo-” or “New” Confucianism works on rescuing out of the existing cultural uncertainty the fundamental element of “old” Confucianism by adopting new or alternative terminology.Chinafinds itself in an ongoing process of changing terminology under the historical conditions of globalization.
In the neoliberal sense,globalization is the process by which the state loses or removes its controls of international trade, meeting the concept of “free trade,” much to the advantage of transnational corporations. The project of globalization has, as professed by globalists, five key points of merit: (1) liberalization and global integration of markets; (2) a natural evolution, both inevitable and irreversible; (3) nobody is in charge of globalization; (4) Globalization benefits everyone; and (5) the spread of democracy everywhere.
In corresponding to the global circumstances and reacting to the Cultural Revolution at home, China began its economic reform in the 1980s. Due to the reform’s appeal to the doctrines of neoliberalism, the Chinese gradually entered a new discourse on the future, a modified interpretation of the Marxism-Leninism that they had followed for over fifty years since the 1920s. In addition, they revived discussions of Confucianism. At this time, however, both a modified interpretation of Marxism and the revival of Confucianism were in terms of liberalism. However, the question to be asked is: has the cultural milieu in China really come to terms withWestern liberalism?
Western ideas are arguably incapable of being fully understood in terms of Chinese categories, for certain cosmological assumptions led to the structural differences betweenWestern and Chinese intellectual traditions and languages and thus created a very difficult situation for peoples of the two traditions to mutually understand each other. As a result, the Chinese in fact simply adopted a new liberalistic terminology to carry the meaning in their terms.
In China it is a common understanding that all rules are made and conducted by men, and hence, it is critical to have in leading positions those who are the most capable of comprehending continuity and correlations, and acquiring and maintaining the harmony of humans and society. The form of politics must not be independent of ethics, butrenzheng(rule of humane correlations) anddezheng(rule of moral virtue).
Understanding Western ideas in China is mainly through Chinese translation; perhaps simply for this reason, it is always vulnerable to misinterpretation and misunderstanding.Chinaindeed misunderstood the ideology of globalization, taking liberalistic concepts unconsciously from the surface value of their Chinese translation. For most Chinese mainstream economists and intellectuals of other areas, liberal democracy,or the globalization ideology,are just some elements for dealing with the new historical conditions. They had certainly done with Marxist terminology several decades before and demanded a new terminology. It is apparent thatthe Chinese do not exist in the true terms ofWestern liberalism.
It is certain that globalization in the neoliberal sense isnot something that has been envisioned by Chinese, who view it differently. As Hu Jintao suggests,
In the process of global economic integration, economic competitions are getting increasingly intensified. Due to some historical and contemporary factors, developing nations are generally not in favorable positions. China, together with other Asian developing nations, is all under the pressure of competition. Therefore, for us developing nations, the important thing is not competition among ourselves, but how to extend mutual cooperation, for the sake that we’ll take a better responding to challenges.
On the one hand, the severe attacks on Chinese tradition, both with the 1919 May Fourth Movement and in the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, and the adoption of newWestern terminology as well, showed the façade of Chinese reactions to the challenging historical conditions. On the other hand some intellectuals, consciously yet unconsciously, assumed for Confucianism a role of resistance to modernization, then globalization. At this juncture, it is even more interesting to note that, as a true situation particularly for the start of economic reform, the attack on and a revival of Confucianism went hand in hand.
Confucianism’s revival started as a direct outcome of the entire repudiation by Deng Xiaoping of the Cultural Revolution toward the end of the 1970s. Of its revival, the Confucianist scholarship’s aim was focusing on its critique at Marxism and Mao’s thought, particularly their theory of class struggle. Other than this, they were reassuming outdated disputes of the different schools of thought in history.Confucianism gained new energy thanks more and more to official positions to resort to traditional and ethical values, as a new terminology as well as solution to domestic problems, e.g., rampant corruptionsand demoralization prompted by privatization and other liberalistic economic policies, which have intrinsically impinged on social stability.
For aWestern person, the way China has been reacting to globalization is rather ambiguous. On the one hand, it has energetically promoted almost all the five key claims of the global “ideology”, apart from, of course, the spread of democracy everywhere. On the other hand, however, it seems that, in many points, China has played a significant role of resistance to globalization, e.g., its having put market economy under close government control since the very start, and not only hesitating about democratizing its political system but often taking a strong position against western-style democracy. Indeed, pondering on thetongbianattitudes – the Chinese often changing their terms and policies – may make the ambiguity less a puzzle. That China has been so ambiguous and even mysterious may well be just a reflection of a particular style of pragmatism, that is, not following doctrines, theory, systems of principles, but acting in light of practical experiences.
In this way, China does not make a case of globalization exactly in the sense of political ideology, as in the West. In the West, any struggle could mean or often be, above all, a battle of ideas, as spelt out in Fukuyama’sEnd of History. But in China, ideation or ideology is not as important as being practical. China never holds fast to unchangeable and absolute ideas or principles, but merely reacts to changes taking place in reality. Chinese do not judge according to principles but always get ready for changeinascircumstances. Any time they change, it may mean that they represent and reclaimtongbianin alternative new terms. The Chinese characteristic way of change by reclaiming its particular worldview and modality of thinking can not be counted on as aWestern type ideology.
However, Chinese do use words to communicate and convey ideas in regards to their firm stand on traditional correlative thinking accounting for new conditions. It seems there is no better explanation of the pattern than a typicalstrategy namedtaoguang yanghui, orliterally, “Hide brightness, nourish obscurity.” This may suggest, as in the basic ideas of Deng Xiaoping: “be humble but try not to be humiliated, and even accept minor humiliation if you have to” and “concentrate on economicdevelopment.”The fact that the Chinese studythe Western political civilization, and say they want to realize popular suffrage and a multiparty system, the army under the rule of the state (rather than of the Party, as presently in China), freedom of press, etc., is itself a show of its being humble. To state that it would not proceed towards democracy but emphasize economics highlights shows that it tries not to be humiliated.
Clearly, both employing some liberal concepts, and reviving Confucianism, belong to the same enterprise – to seek new terminology for the sake of a change in new circumstances, while playing less with Marxist terms, which somehow makes things inconvenient for the time being by standing right in the way of globalization in theWestern liberal sense.
What is ‘Post-’ and “Post-modern” about Confucianism?
Instead of claiming to be Neo-Confucianist, many advocates of Confucianism of the global age since the 1990s have demonstrated keen interest in creating new names for Confucianism by adding a prefix “post-.” An online search may find lots of them, for instance,hou xiandai shiyu zhong de xian dai xin ruxue, or Modern Neo-Confucianism in the Context of Postmodernity; hou xiandai xin ruxue, or Postmodern Neo-Confucianism; hou xin ruxue, or Post-“Neo-Confucianism”; ruxue de leihouxiandai zhuyi, or the Postmodernism-like Elements in Confucianism; hou ruxue, or Post-Confucianism; andxin xin ruxue, or New Neo-Confucianism. As a group of new concepts which have been created about Confucianism in the global age, what do the prefix “post-” and “post-modern,” suggest, and how are they being applied or changed in Confucianism’s response to the project of globalization?
An examination finds the characteristics of these newly created concepts can be subsumed as follows:
(1) As much as the case of “new” (neo-) Confucianism, thesehou(“post-”) orhou xiandai(postmodern) concepts are not meant to carry the implications of their original English analogues. Adding axin(new) orhou(after) toruxue(Confucian academics) or toxiandai(modern times), or aqian(before) toxiandai(modern times), is a practice that the Chinese academic circles have learned from the west, but the prefixed terminology does not necessarily gain the sense of western linguistics and social sciences. As it refers to after, behind, afterward, and on other cases, toward, to, near, and close by, “post-” can be used as regards time order or location. Ifhouorqianis used in this way, the results would in many cases be destructive. In fact,hou ruxue, post-Confucianism in Chinese form, if not because it is a simulation of the Western practice, would have been a terrible way to thus get aci(word) formed. If postmodernism, defined as the thought movement that denies the possibility of objective knowledge of the modern ideology, may mean a negation of modernism, then post-Confucianism, in following suite, could suggest a thought movement that denies Confucianism. But post-Confucianism turns out to be an opposite case. As Jin Huimin, author ofhou ruxue,defines it, “The major work of post-Confucianism is to extend a critique of modernity by following suite of the enterprise of postmodernism. If Confucianism still remains full of values for today’s use, it depends if it is possible for it to enter a path that can be called ‘post-Confucianism,’ or, as postmodernism popularly claims it, ‘go around the corner’.” In Jin, the addition of post- to Confucianism does not mean to negate Confucianism but to make a full play of its values.
(2) If compared with Neo-Confucianism, the attachment of the prefix “post-”or “postmodern” to Confucianism does not really make a difference – newer or more creative. Theadvocates of Confucianism with a prefix “post-” or “postmodern,” while attemptinga dialogue with their counterparts in the west to articulate their ideas about globalization, are still like their predecessors of Neo-Confucianism, who have not quite realized where they stand in distance from them and the subject-matter of globalization and post-modernity under discussion in the West. Jia Qingsong, author of the concept of “postmodernism-like elements in Confucianism,” is perhaps one of the very few who’ve recognized the nature of postmodern sensibilities in terms of a profound reverse in theWestern thinking and criticism of modernity. Jia mentions that the reflections on and critique of modernity in Foucault and Derrida have found surprisingly similar elements in Confucianism. Even so, however, Jia plainly shows that he is still not quite there as to the dialectic of the modern vs. the postmodern sensibilities, by stating that, in order to show its potential multiple values that can be adequately used by humanity in the modern era, Confucianism must have itself modernized in relation to modern society and be incorporated into modern life. In his claim, he brings together simply and articulately two rather dichotomous concepts: the modernism that postmodernism has been criticizing and the modernization that Confucianism must assume.
(3) Some proponents of “post-”or “postmodern-” Confucianism do not seem interested in addressing or responding to the pointsprofessed by globalistsabout globalization, which include:liberalization and global integration of markets, a natural evolution, both inevitable and irreversible, that nobody is in charge of globalization, that globalization benefits everyone, and democratization. They rather articulate their ideas according to what they assume as the reality of the West in Chinese terms, particularlyminzhu(rather than democracy) andkexue(rather than science). As Lin Anwu, author of the concept “Post-‘Neo-Confucianism’”, asserts it, modern Neo-Confucianism has missed the point by claiming that the modern Confucianism advocates that “the progress of democracy and science follows the self’s internal enlightenment.” For Lin, the order ought to be reversed, that is, “rather than that democracy and science grow from Confucianism, Confucianism ought to play the role of a mediator and take part in the process of democratization and science, and in theoretical and particularly conceptual levels, its role is to comprehend and interpret, and then deconstruct and reconstruct it. ” In Lin’s new concept,“Post-‘Neo-Confucianism’,” both “post-” and “neo-” are meant to take democracy and science for granted, rather than to respond to the claims of globalization. In Lin’s case, of course, “post-” and “neo-” suggest a negation of Confucianism.
(4) It is rather safe to construe that there is little awareness in the modern or post-modern Confucian academics of the structural differences between Chinese andWestern intellectual traditions, in which Western academic categories dominate and create a sort of intellectual apartheid that separates China from the west. Indeed, most advocates ofhou(“post-”) orhou xiandai(postmodern) Confucianism are the same as theNeo-Confucian thinkers in regarding the project of Confucianism’s modernization as the target of their academics, that is, to adopt liberal democracy as a universal value. But for many reasons, fewisareaware of the relevance these values bear to the problems that have been caused by global capitalism,and hasor haveyet developed a sensibility to guard against habitual miscomprehension, misreading, and misconception of the issues.;Tthe problemarises in the Chinese attempt to apply Confucian ideas to the conceptual and discursive structures of democratic liberalism in the West, or, rather simply put, impose a connection where it is barely possible between Confucianism and the modern sensibilities of theWest.
In his reflections on Confucianism, Lin claims that social justice ought to be the nucleus of Confucianism and asserts the need to adopt a social contract, responsibility, as well as the dualism of subject and object. Lin indeed makes a typical case of how a Confucian scholar overlooks structural differences by comprehendingWestern structure in Chinese terms.
(5) Cheng Chung-ying, a Chinese American philosopher who is highly respected in China and the West, has also pondered on the modernization of Confucianism. Unlike Neo-Confucianism, however, his effort is to solve the issue of how to make traditional Confucianism and modernity incorporate each other, creating a whole rendered version, which could be the philosophy in China as well as worldwide. He claims that, based upon a comparative study of the major differences between traditional China and the modern West, he wants to construct a “New Neo-Confucianism” that entails Modern Confucianism.
Cheng argues that, incorporating the experience of the four stages of the development of Confucianism over history--the Pre-Qin, the Han, Song and Ming, and Qing Dynasties, and taking into consideration the demand for modernization and both the good and bad of Western modernity, his New Neo-Confucianism constitutes the fifth stage. He aims at reconstructing a set of administrative mechanisms and systems that facilitates interaction of ethics and techniques and can be applied to both public administration and economic and business management. Finally Cheng’s New Neo-Confucianism turns out to be a theory entitled Onto-hermeneutics, or in Chinese,ben ti chan shi xue.He construes anew conceptual ontology (ben ti) of his own, with the claim as follows:benis the original source, which is historical, temporal, and immanent;ti, the whole, which is systematic, temporal, and external.Ben ti, or ontology, may be as inclusive as to embrace everything that gives rise to the systematic universe, and to endure in the process of all occurrences and transformations. With this Onto-hermeneutics, Cheng has accomplished a sublimely unified system of philosophy incorporating Chinese and Western cultures, the metaphysical and physical, internal and external harmony, and politics and economics. In other words, his New Neo-Confucianism is a systemization, transformation and reinterpretation of Chinese traditional culture in order to incorporate it into the entire and huge tide of human civilizations.
This is so great a project that someone who is more sensitive to the differences between the two traditions would suspect it unthinkable unless an appropriate clarification is made about a possible solution to the structural differences between the modalities of thinking – one is correlative in China, and the other, dualistic in the West.
How and in What Direction is Confucianism to Develop?
It is critical to observe that for most people, in both “new” (“neo-”) and “post-” (“postmodern”) Confucianism, Chinese culture has been left behind; the West already entered the stage of postmodernism whereas China has just reached and turned its direction to modernism. For them, there is no question that theWest has set an example worldwide and that democracy and science are two great merits, which Confucianism, regardless of the “new” (“neo-”) or the “post-” (“postmodern”), has to regard as a paradigm in treating its own problems and to transplant as fundamental into its own system. However, the situation seems to have made an abrupt turn toward the end of 2008.As Francesco Sisci comments,
Chinaseems to have recognized the need to democratize but fumbled with the idea of just following the Western model. Butthe financial crisis is showing a different reality and the cultural and intellectual superiority of the West was dented. There has been a clear signal ofChina’s reconsidering the priorities of its political plans. And it is not the first time China has changed its priorities in the nick of time when facing unprecedented challenges.
The shift, in psychological rather than ideological terms, from the dominant “look up to theWest” to doubt of theWest, has a reflection in Gan Yang’s two concepts, the first and second “ideological” liberations (sixiang jiefang). As he urges, no matter how many people differ from each other in their views, they may be able to reach a consensus, that is, get rid of the blind worship of the Western, particularly, American model. For him, China has completed its first ideological liberation, a shift from simplistic criticism and negation of the West to looking up to the West without reservation. Now China has come to a second liberation, a shift from a worship of the West to considering the possibility that there could be a Chinese model.
Gan believes the second ideological revolution had started in fact since the beginning of the 1990s.China has come to a time that requires an overall retrospective look at the past, which includes the three decades of economic reform, the sixty years of socialism, the more than one hundred years of modern history, and even the over twomillenniumsmillenniaof Chinese civilization as well. China seems to have learned that,if a nation wants to become a big power, it has to adopt democracy; additionally, however, it also needs to have a powerful state.
At this point, what I would like to argue is that, if the trend toward economic deregulation on a global scale is a contemporary version of “freedom of the commons,” and, as Steger has stated, that the content of globalism is the reemergence and increasing political dominance of ideas concerned with the individualism and market mechanisms characteristic of early liberalism, then the idea of “powerful democratic state” would probably be the reemergence of Confucianism. First, this is profoundly relevant to the correlative modality of Chinese thinking, an absence of the view that takes people as merely loose and separated individuals. Second, unlikeWestern liberalism, and because there are always correlative persons rather than in strict sense individuals, the Confucian view of government and people is not that they are dual to each other but that there could be good government. Third, based upon such modality of thinking that focuses on correlativity rather than dualism, and democracy which rather means “power for people” instead of any concept such as individual interest, competition, and checks and balances, etc., then “powerful democratic state” could be favorable. The articulation of the idea could find itself a subject-matter pertaining to the structural differences between the two cultural traditions and in regards tohow and in what direction Confucianism is to develop.
Conclusion: Confucianism in the postmodern era
If Gan is right to say thatChinahas come to a time that requires an overall reevaluation of its past, then the question that needs to be asked is: What is the departure, and what exactly is in the past, for that retrospective look to look at? This is the question that should be asked not only for the concept of Gan’s “second ideological liberation,” but for all Confucian students, regardless of prefix, the modern “neo-,” new “neo-,” “post- “neo-,” or “postmodern.” This is because, for different reasons, they all seem to have failed in identifying the structural differences that had led China and the West to two respectively diverse paths of civilization.
Modern Confucianism or modern Neo-Confucianism has been an enterprise of reflecting on, rereading, reevaluating, and reconstructing of the system of Confucianism under thewide-spreadinfluenceof thewide-spreadofWestern ideology and thus by means of employingWestern conceptual terminology, schemes, and apparatus. Until today, in following suite, most students of Confucianism in the postmodern era still have not yet gained sensibilities for changing course. This situation is like the analog Roger T. Ames used to refer to: squeezing China forcefully into theWestern shoe with a shoe-horn. I would say it is time to put an end to this enterprise. Instead of following the old suit and looking up to the Western philosophical categories, Confucianism must firmly stand in its place of an equal base to the West, and with confidence.
There is no need to have Confucianism attached to “neo-” or “post-,” since this way only causes confusion and miscomprehension for the usage’sWestern implications. What I use in signifying the particular role of Confucianism ishou xiandai ruxue. Although the direct English translation could be “Postmodern Confucianism,” the concept does not necessarily carry the implications of its English form. For this reason, I would rather translate it into “Confucianism in the Postmodern Era” for it to carry the meaning of the Chinese original. Yet, there is still more to explain. First, the three Chinese charactershou xian dai, or in Englishpostmodern, doesnot suggest defining what Confucianism means, nor that it makesa temporal continuity ofxian dai, or modern. Secondly, there is neither a modern nor a postmodern Confucianism since Confucianism is from China and does not have an inherent connection to “modern” or “postmodern” simply because these two are cultural-specific chronological concepts of the West. The rich sense they carry is much more thanxiandaiandhou xiandaican mean. Also for this reason, whathouxian dai ruxuecan indicate is perhaps not more than “Confucianism in the Postmodern Era.” In other words, Confucian academics or philosophy needs to embrace a broadened view or perspective of the time that people call the postmodern, with the circumstances of a particular history and of today’s world. The attachment of a Chinese prefixhou xiandaitoruxuemakes probably no more than a change in horizontal spatial sense from China to theWest, suggesting that Confucianism go global in the global age in order to make its perspectives accessible as an important part of the global culture.
Up to now,Confucianism in the modern era has undergone a process of being treated in Western philosophical terms, while in fact it is incapable of being understood this way. Confucianism has hardly had a chance for a true conversation with the Western intellectual tradition because the historical conditions simply did not exist and hence an adequate comprehension of the structural differences rendered by Western cosmological assumptions has been out of the question. It seems that there is now an opportunity for it to engage with Western thought in the postmodern era because: (1) postmodernism poses a challenge to modernism; (2)cultural critics have raised questions about the very institutions of capitalism, democracy, and technology;(3)since the mid-1980s experts have raised the argument that all the early philosophers of China are postmodern figures; and (4) the Chinese and Western intellectuals have been approaching each other for possible conversation even though their thought systems structurally differ from each other.
In the opportunity
of the postmodern age the difficulty attending all the “new,” “neo-,” “post,”
and “-ism” of the modern Confucianism will draw adequate attention and achieve
reconciliation in the postmodern era. This will be facilitated by the
historical conditions of a high frequency of contact between civilizations,
which make deepening convergence and mutual understanding possible