Henry C K Liu: The Race Toward Barbarism

Henry C K Liu is chairman of the New York-based Liu Investment Group. He writes on the Asia Times Online:

Actually, East Asian societies often exhibit behaviors and attitudes just the opposite of the supposed salient features of Confucian modernity indicate. Indeed, having been humiliated by imperialism and colonialism for decades, the rise of East Asia, on the surface at least, blatantly displays some of the most negative aspects of Western modernism with a vengeance: exploitation, mercantilism, consumerism, materialism, greed, egoism and brutal competitiveness.

Nevertheless, as the first non-Western region to become modernized, the cultural implications of the rise of “Confucian” East Asia are far-reaching. The modern West as informed by the Enlightenment mentality provided the initial impetus for worldwide social transformation. The historical reasons that prompted the modernizing process in Western Europe and North America are not necessarily structural components of modernity. Surely, Enlightenment values such as instrumental rationality, liberty, rights consciousness, due process of law, privacy and individualism are all universalizable modern values. However, as the Confucian example suggests, “Asian values” such as sympathy, distributive justice, duty-consciousness, ritual, public-spiritedness and group orientation are also universalizable modern values. Just as the former ought to be incorporated into East Asian modernity, the latter may turn out to be a critical and timely reference for the American way of life.

June 12, 2009 11:20 PM
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