Chagnon Debate Essay, Research Paper
Confucian Doctrine in Modern Society
Robert Bruce’s article titled “The Return to Confucius?” asserts that Confucianism may be the answer to Asian economic strife. However, he fails to draw a clear link between economic prosperity and Confucianism, instead leaving the reader to hypothesize using the information given in the article, and, in our case, the Analects.
I believe the message he is trying to convey is that a nation living in harmony is an economically prosperous one. This he supports with references to imperial China such as Matteo Ricci who, as Bruce states, “brought a vision of harmony, equality, scholarship and education, which the Enlightenment of Europe regarded with awe and admiration.” What Bruce neglects to mention is that China had little exposure to the Western world at that point in history and was not greatly influenced by Western culture until relatively recently.
China’s bloody entrance into the global economy finally came in the form of the Opium War and consequently, foreign spheres of influence. The British and French spheres in particular provided a catalyst to the Westernization of China. Confucian ideals were repressed and ridiculed along with any other unique aspect of Chinese culture. The economy once based firmly on the ideals Bruce writes about was crushed by the brute force of capitalism.
As Bruce so kindly points out, the Communist Revolution in China followed soon after, and, while it had little support from Europe, Mao and Stalin became close and they prospered from one another for a time. China was also forced into a system spawned by a far more Western train of thought than it was accustomed to – a system that, more often than not, was at war with Confucianism rather than utilizing it. Bruce implies that China and several surrounding countries are now basking in their own Confucianism and it is yielding enormous economic dividends. Yet again, Bruce fails to point out that there have been entire generations raised on an anti-Confucian doctrine. Though Chinese culture may yet have remnants of Confucianism so ingrained in it that no dictator, no matter how brutal, could stamp out, many Chinese don’t and, in all likelihood, won’t accept many of K’ung Fu-tzu’s ideas and teachings. The propaganda of the Cultural Revolution won’t soon be erased.
Even if Confucianism was observed as it once was in imperial China, an economy based upon Confucian ethics would be short lived. As stated in Bruce’s article, capitalism is now being encouraged in the People’s Republic, and capitalism is clearly not conducive to Confucianism or communism, which is one of the few political systems in which an ideal form of Confucianism could thrive. Capitalism awards greed (was that a little too blunt Mr. Cherin? … hehehe), thus a capitalist economic system operating under Confucianism is very easily abused and therefore leaves little room for human error.
A capitalist force – the USA, currently dominates the global economy. This affects the theory Bruce puts forward in his article in two very important ways. First, it creates a situation in which a less powerful, “communist” nation such as China has an infinitesimal chance at success in the global market unless it allows room for capitalism, and, second, unless the Confucian Revolution (you like that one? – I’m a poet and I’m going to make sure everyone knows it) is a world wide phenomenon, it cannot be successful in the long term because capitalism will eradicate it, and even if it is, it is would be highly unstable due to the aforementioned reasons. This makes Confucianism and economic prosperity well-nigh mutually exclusive.
It seems as though the connection that Robert Bruce tells of between Confucianism and Asia’s newfound economic success is either fictitious or ephemeral. Bruce’s article is in desperate need of a logical justification of the claim he puts forth, without it, the theory is easily torn down, and the article itself sounds weak. It appears as though a stable economic system with Confucianism at its base could exist only while two things are occurring simultaneously – the economic system in place is in accordance with Confucian ideals, and this system is universal. If one of these components is not present I don’t believe economic prosperity under Confucianism is possible, and that the only reason that it once was is that imperial China had only an inconsequential amount of communication with the remainder of the world, making it, in effect, universal.