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Globalization has become an inescapable fact of contemporary life. Some leaders, in both the East and the West, believe that human rights are culture-bound and that liberal democracy is essentially Western, inapplicable to the non-Western world. How can civilized life be preserved and issues of human rights and civil society be addressed if the material forces dominating world affairs are allowed to run blindly, uncontrolled by any cross-cultural consensus on how human values can be given effective expression and direction?
In a thoughtful meditation ranging widely over several civilizations and historical eras, Wm. Theodore de Bary argues that the concepts of leadership and public morality in the major Asian traditions offer a valuable perspective on humanizing the globalization process. Turning to the classic ideals of the Buddhist, Hindu, Confucian, and Japanese traditions, he investigates the nature of true leadership and its relation to learning, virtue, and education in human governance; the role in society of the public intellectual; and the responsibilities of those in power in creating and maintaining civil society.
De Bary recognizes that throughout history ideals have always come up against messy human complications. Still, he finds in the exploration and affirmation of common values a worthy attempt to grapple with persistent human dilemmas across the globe.
De Bary...is one of the few scholars trying to probe beneath the easy generalizations about East Asian values. [He] has devoted his career to probing the moral underpinnings of Asia's successes and failures—and his latest book explores how those ethics are poised to transform the West.
— Douglas Todd
In a time when nobility is scarce, civility in short supply, and intercultural understanding badly needed, this book belongs in every library. De Bary draws on a lifetime of study and reflection to summarize and distill how three very different Asian traditions (Chinese, Indian, Japanese) addressed issues of governance and civil life in a process shaped by intellectual and political contestation and compromise. Written in a clear language free of jargon and supported by quotations from major texts, de Bary presents a coherent overview that should generate discussion (and contestation).
— C. Schirokauer
William Theodore de Bary has long been an influential voice among Asianists and a leading proponent of cross-cultural dialogue. The author’s insightful discussion about inter-Confucian discourse concerning nobility and civility is carried over into the four-chapter study of how the Japanese have tended to think about and develop interpretations of noble personhood and the common good.
— Tom Pynn
|1||Confucius' noble person||1|
|2||The noble paths of Buddha and Rama||13|
|3||Buddhist spirituality and Chinese civility||44|
|4||Shotoku's constitution and the civil order in early Japan||63|
|5||Chrysanthemum and sword revisited||80|
|6||The new leadership and civil society in Song China||119|
|7||Civil and military in Tokugawa Japan||147|
|8||Citizen and subject in modern Japan||168|
|9||"The people renewed" in twentieth-century China||203|