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Write a Critical Study of Confucianism and Democratization in East Asia by Doh Chull Shin, Cambridge University Press 2012
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The book, Confucianism and Democratization is a scholarly work written by the author, D. C. Shin. The previous work on this book done by me presents the details of the book how the author has dealt with an old and intricate topic whether Confucianism is associated with democratization and if yes, in what ways these two are interlinked. In this paper, I would provide a critical study of the author’s arguments with its empirical, statistical results as well as its validity. Twentieth-century East Asia has been widely affected by the process of democratization; it has changed the nationalistic movements of Confucian dominant countries namely, China, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam in East Asia. The Freedom House Data that shows the yearly stats has rated China, Vietnam, and North Korea as 'NOT FREE' countries; whereas, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are free and Singapore is partly free. It shows the data from 1993 till 2015. It is interesting that countries like North Korea and Vietnam are still considered as democratically not free countries. The way this book has been divided into five parts namely, 'Confucianism and Confucian East Asia', 'Upholding Confucian Legacies', 'Engaging in Civic Life', 'Embracing Democracy' and 'Final Thoughts' provides a systematic study of Confucianism in these countries. At the same time, it raises some important questions that need to be addressed. Where the first chapter remains a part of history, the second chapter suggests whether it is important to uphold Confucian legacies or not. The author’s point throughout this book pivots around the relation and interdependence of Confucianism and democracy. Thus it becomes important to see that Confucianism needs democracy to cut down its patriarchal and authoritarian moves, but does democracy need Confucianism is an open question. No wonder Shin is wise enough to reassess the Confucian Asian values in the last concluding chapter, but this argument needs much more attention and elaboration than what we see in ‘Final Thoughts’. In this paper, I would critically examine how far the author’s final thoughts are linked to the empirical facts and futures of this question. Some other issues to examine are whether Confucianism is inherently collectivistic, patriarchal, or authoritarian; whether it sanctions oppressive governments. Why do these countries need democracy? This book has shown that what is often blamed on Confucianism are actually the distortions of Confucianism which is made by the people in power. We would see that if so, can we still continue with Confucianism instead of democracy.
This paper would analyze these issues in comparison with non-Confucian countries. The empirical data for the Confucian and non-Confucian countries would be compared to see how far democracy has worked differently in these countries if at all. Confucianism has promoted a non-liberal democratic government who emphasizes on economic welfare than freedom of the public, but it has also maintained an interpersonal trust and tolerance among people. However, this trust many times symbolizes itself as fear because one is not allowed to express his or her ideas openly; and therefore, he/she agrees to consent on anything that is being decided by the power. Confucianism is dominated by those who are in power making the voices of the mass unheard. That is why we get the discussion of the global demand of democracy in the introductory chapter, ‘democracy no longer remains confined mostly to socioeconomically advanced countries of the West. Instead, it has become a global phenomenon for the first time in human history‘. The democratic waves were found in East Asia almost ten years later than Southern European countries. According to the author, the six democratic countries in East Asia are Japan which has second-wave democracy and five third-wave democratic countries namely Indonesia, Mongolia, South Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan. In spite of their economic success, these countries have not succeeded to implement democracy completely. These countries are still very limited in its liberal expansion, and even in the second or third decades of democratization, they are not able to manage the democratic principles among their public. We would see why they are still struggling with democratization in the next section. Is it that they don’t need democracy?