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Against Political EqualityThe Confucian Case$
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Tongdong Bai

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691195995

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691195995.001.0001

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Confucianism on Political Legitimacy

Confucianism on Political Legitimacy

For the People, of the People, but Not by the People

(p.32) 2 Confucianism on Political Legitimacy
Against Political Equality

Tongdong Bai

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses political legitimacy within the Confucian context. It attempts reconcile the early Confucians’ embrace of equality with their defense of hierarchy. The chapter also considers how to reconcile their idea that the legitimacy of the state lies in service to the people, with the idea that it is not the people alone who make the final political decisions. It shows that the lack of capacities of making sound political decisions by the masses cannot result from the failure of the state to secure basic goods, education, and other necessary conditions for people to make sound political decisions, and it has to be the result of a basic fact of human life. That is, in spite of all these governmental efforts that are demanded by them, and in spite of their beliefs that human beings are all potentially equal (Mencius and Xun Zi) or close to being equal (Confucius), early Confucians also took it as a fact of life that the majority of the people cannot actually obtain the capacity necessary to make sound political decisions and participate fully in politics.

Keywords:   political legitimacy, equality, hierarchy, political decisions, mobility, stability

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