Between Tradition and Modernity: Modern Confucianism as a Form of East Asian Social Knowledge



In the last decades of the 20th century, the revival of traditional Confucianism assumed increasing importance and relevance. The revitalization of its complex philosophical heritage thus became part of the most important theoretical currents in contemporary East Asian societies. Due to its potentially stabilizing social function and compatibility with capitalism, Confucianism is often seen as the Asian equivalent of Max Weber’s “protestant ethic”. In modern sinology, this view is known as the “post-Confucian hypothesis”. The appearance of the “vacuum of values” in modern China and its problematization and connection to the transformation of the structure, role, and function of social knowledge provide a good example of the consequences of explosive social transformation. This also raises the question of whether the Confucian modernization model is indeed capable of generating a non-individualistic version of modernity. Proceeding from this hypothesis, the present paper aims to show that the purported relation between modernity and individualism, which international modernization theories have always viewed as “inevitable” or “intrinsic”, is, in fact, little more than an outcome of Western historical paradigms.


Confucianism, Modern Confucianism, cultural heritage, East Asian modernization, social knowledge

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