Mixing Confucianism and Democracy


Wednesday, March 7, 2012, 4:10pm to 5:30pm


124 Mt. Auburn Street, Suite 200-North, Cambridge, MA

Joseph ChanJoseph Chan, University of Hong Kong

About the Seminar
Many people think that Confucian political thought is incompatible with democracy. Professor Joseph Chan argues that this is an overstatement and that there are affinities and tensions between Confucian political values and democratic institutions. According to Chan, the best way to address the complex relationship of these two items is not by rejecting one and accepting the other, but rather by mixing them in ways that strengthen both. In this presentation, Chan will show how in ideal situations democratic elections can be seen as the best institutional means to express the Confucian political ideal. He will also explore ways in which Confucian values and virtues can enhance the quality of democratic governance and participation in non-ideal situations.

About the Speaker
Professor Joseph Chan is head of the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong. He has recently completed a book manuscript titled Confucian Political Philosophy: A Critical Reconstruction for Modern Times. He obtained his undergraduate degree in political science from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, his M.Sc from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and his D.Phil. from Oxford University. He teaches political theory and researches in the areas of contemporary liberalism and perfectionism, Confucian political philosophy, human rights, and civil society. He was a visiting scholar at the Harvard-Yenching Institute, Harvard University in 1999-2000, head of the department of Politics and Public Administration from 2002-2004, and founding director of the Centre for Civil Society and Governance, Faculty of Social Sciences from 2003-2009. He is deputy chairman of the University’s Common Core Curriculum Committee and a member of the University’s Steering Committee on the four-year undergraduate curriculum.