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Confucianism and Meritocracy: Light from the East

Ex oriente lux. With the spring academic term finished, I am in Japan and China, ostensibly to give papers at several Japanese and Chinese universities, but really to learn more about meritocracy debates in contemporary Asia. There has been a heated debate going on there among political theorists about the forms of governance most consistent with ancient Confucian political thought. The debate tracks the theoretical shadowboxing Confucian scholars have been doing for the last two…

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North Korea’s Search for Totality

In early April, I participated in the Pyongyang Marathon, organized for the birthday of the Great Leader, Kim Il-sung (1912–1994), founder of the Kim dynasty. He is the father of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il (1941–2011), and the grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong-un. Our tour…

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Reforming Elites the Confucian Way

Meritocracy has become a theme of great interest in contemporary politics, both in Western and Eastern societies. But attitudes toward meritocracy in the two regions differ sharply. In the West, the concept of an elite constituted by its most intellectually gifted and energetic members came into its own in the later nineteenth century with the adoption by the British government of civil service…

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