In This Review

Asian Values and Human Rights: A Confucian Communitarian Perspective
Asian Values and Human Rights: A Confucian Communitarian Perspective
By William Theodore de Bary
Harvard University Press, 1998, 208 pp
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One of the West's leading China scholars, de Bary takes issue with those who claim that the so-called Asian model of development based on Confucianism is at odds with Western principles of individualism, liberal democracy, and human rights. De Bary contends that a liberal Confucian tradition does indeed exist that could lay the foundations for a more tolerant political system in China. While the Confucian tradition differs in some respects from Western concepts of individualism, he stresses that it is compatible with human rights. Although the author's argument is almost certainly correct -- all cultural traditions contain diverse elements -- he pays excessive attention to the role of cultural factors in shaping liberal politics. Socioeconomic and political factors remain just as, if not more, significant than culture in determining whether a country democratizes or not.