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The East Asian Challenge for Democracy
Political Meritocracy in Comparative Perspective

Joseph Chan, Tongdong Bai, Ruiping Fan, John Skorupski, Philip Pettit, Yuri Pines, Benjamin Elman, Stephen Macedo, Doh Chull Shin, Benjamin Wong, Kenneth Paul Tan, Hong Xiao, Chenyang Li, Philippe C. Schmitter, Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels
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  • Date Published: August 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107623774
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About the Authors
  • The rise of China, along with problems of governance in democratic countries, has reinvigorated the theory of political meritocracy. But what is the theory of political meritocracy and how can it set standards for evaluating political progress (and regress)? To help answer these questions, this volume gathers a series of commissioned research papers from an interdisciplinary group of leading philosophers, historians and social scientists. The result is the first book in decades to examine the rise (or revival) of political meritocracy and what it will mean for political developments in China and the rest of the world. Despite its limitations, meritocracy has contributed much to human flourishing in East Asia and beyond and will continue to do so in the future. This book is essential reading for those who wish to further the debate and perhaps even help to implement desirable forms of political change.

    • The first book on political meritocracy in decades
    • Presents a fascinating look at political meritocracy in East Asia in a comparative perspective
    • An interdisciplinary and accessible book written by some of the world's leading academics
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'In theory, democracy works beautifully. In practice, it does not. Indeed, the American democratic system has effectively been hijacked by special interests through a process best described as institutionalized legal corruption. Clearly the world needs new political thinking, bringing together the best of the East and the West. This is what this volume does, reminding us that political wisdom springs from all corners of the world. It could not be more timely. A must-read.' Kishore Mahbubani, Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, and author of The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World

    'Drawing on Eastern and Western theories, histories, and contemporary experiences, The East Asian Challenge for Democracy is a searching, provocative, and above all open-minded exploration of meritocracy. By highlighting both strengths and weaknesses of meritocracy, this wide-ranging but well-integrated volume challenges everyone - from doctrinaire democrats to rigid meritocrats - to enter into a renewed conversation about political possibilities.' Stephen Angle, Wesleyan University

    'In this volume, Bell and Li have made tremendous efforts in bringing together more than a dozen … known experts, exploring rich traditions and contemporary practices of meritocracy in East Asia, particularly China and Singapore. All who are interested in the future of China and other parts of East Asia should read this excellent book.' Zheng Yongnian, National University of Singapore

    'The present volume invokes the Chinese tradition of 'meritocracy', focused on virtuous public leadership, assessing its value and contemporary feasibility from a great many angles. The scope and intellectual rigor of these assessments is unparalleled in the literature. The central problem faced by all contributors is implicit in the term 'meritocracy' itself: how can 'merit' or virtue be combined with political power ('-cracy'), given Lord Action's famous saying that all power inevitably corrupts?' Fred Dallmayr, author of In Search of The Good Life and The Promise of Democracy

    'Bell and Li posit a provocative thesis that East Asian political meritocracy poses a deeper challenge to liberal democracy than most in the West suspect. … Bell and Li, together and separately, have done much to reinvigorate both the scholarly discussion and public dialogue regarding the virtues of political meritocracy. Their book is an excellent compendium for both scholars and students interested in the impact that modern political Confucianism and political meritocracy play in China, Singapore, East and South Asian societies, as well as the implications of political meritocracy's potential influence on liberal democracy and democratic theory.' Jon R. Taylor, Journal of Chinese Political Science

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    Customer reviews

    26th Nov 2013 by Jianzhang

    I am very interested in reading the contribution by Nicolas Berggruen, who is primarily a businessman.

    02nd Jan 2014 by Jianzhang

    I am very interested in reading the contribution by Nicolas Berggruen, who is primarily a businessman.

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2013
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107623774
    • length: 412 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.57kg
    • contains: 1 b/w illus. 8 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. The Theory of Political Meritocracy:
    1. Political meritocracy and meritorious rule: a Confucian perspective Joseph Chan
    2. A Confucian version of hybrid regime: how does it work and why is it superior? Tongdong Bai
    3. Confucian meritocracy for contemporary China Ruiping Fan
    4. The liberal critique of democracy John Skorupski
    5. Meritocratic representation Philip Pettit
    Part II. The History of Political Meritocracy:
    6. Between merit and pedigree: evolution of the concept of 'elevating the worthy' in pre-imperial China Yuri Pines
    7. A society in motion: unexpected consequences of political meritocracy in late imperial China, 1400–1900 Benjamin Elman
    8. Meritocratic democracy: learning from the American Constitution Stephen Macedo
    Part III. Realizing Political Meritocracy Today:
    9. How East Asians view meritocracy: a Confucian perspective Doh Chull Shin
    10. Political meritocracy in Singapore: lessons from the PAP government Benjamin Wong
    11. Meritocracy and political liberalization in Singapore Kenneth Paul Tan
    12. China's meritocratic examinations and the ideal of virtuous talents Hong Xiao and Chenyang Li
    13. Reflections on political meritocracy: its manipulation and transformation Philippe C. Schmitter
    14. Political meritocracy and direct democracy: a hybrid experiment in California Nicolas Berggruen and Nathan Gardels.

  • Editors

    Daniel A. Bell, Xian Jiaotong University, China
    Daniel A. Bell is Zhiyuan Chair Professor of the Arts and Humanities at Jiaotong University (Shanghai) and Professor of Ethics and Political Philosophy and Director of the Center for International and Comparative Political Philosophy at Tsinghua University (Beijing). His recent books include China's New Confucianism (revised edition, 2010); the co-edited books A Confucian Constitutional Order (2013) and Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power (2011); and the co-authored book The Spirit of Cities (2011). He has co-edited three previous books with Cambridge University Press. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the Financial Times and to Chinese language publications. His writings have been translated into twenty-two languages.

    Chenyang Li, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
    Chenyang Li is Associate Professor and Founding Director of the philosophy program at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Previously, he served as Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Central Washington University, where he received the Distinguished Research Professor Award, the Outstanding Department Chair Award, and the Keys to Success Award (Student Service). He was a 2008–2009 American Council on Education Fellow. His research interests include Chinese philosophy, comparative philosophy and value theory. Among his publications are The Confucian Philosophy of Harmony (2013), The Tao Encounters the West: Explorations in Comparative Philosophy (1999), and The Sage and the Second Sex: Confucianism, Ethics, and Gender (editor, 2000), and more than eighty journal articles and book chapters.


    Joseph Chan, Tongdong Bai, Ruiping Fan, John Skorupski, Philip Pettit, Yuri Pines, Benjamin Elman, Stephen Macedo, Doh Chull Shin, Benjamin Wong, Kenneth Paul Tan, Hong Xiao, Chenyang Li, Philippe C. Schmitter, Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels

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