Nobility and Civility: Asian Ideals of Leadership and the Common Good / Edition 1

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
De Bary, arguably the West's leading scholar of classical Asian thought, has written an elegant and thoughtful essay on the essence of true leadership and political virtue as expounded in the classics of Confucianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Japanese thought. Instead of treating the classical writings of Asia as mere relics of 'traditional' thought that will be replaced by more 'modern' thinking, he demonstrates that the great books of Asia contain within them valuable concepts and insights for preserving civilized life in an age of materialistic globalization...Just to follow de Bary's journeys through Asian classical texts is an intellectually broadening experience for anyone, including specialists on contemporary Asia.
Vancouver Sun

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

Choice

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

Journal of Ethics in Leadership

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

Tu Weiming
By addressing the fundamental question of whether Asian values can enrich liberal concepts such as liberty, rationality, human rights, and the due process of law, de Bary makes a significant contribution to the current dialogue among civilizations.
Jacques Barzun
Since the clash of cultures has replaced the wars of nationalism, whoever wants to be intelligent about American foreign policy needs to know more than the press supplies. In Nobility and Civility Wm. Theodore de Bary, the ranking authority on East Asian civilizations, gives the reader a vivid account of the mingled traditions that guided rulers and moved masses over the ages and that still govern feeling and action in China, India, and Japan.
John Berthrong
De Bary shows how notions of nobility and civility arose in South Asia and East Asia and formed the background for their encounter with Western European thought and various forms of modernization and globalization today. These are topics of immense importance not only to scholars but also to any educated person in the modern world.
Vancouver Sun - Douglas Todd
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.
Choice - C. Schirokauer
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).
Journal of Ethics in Leadership - Tom Pynn
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.
Foreign Affairs
De Bary, arguably the West's leading scholar of classical Asian thought, has written an elegant and thoughtful essay on the essence of true leadership and political virtue as expounded in the classics of Confucianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Japanese thought. Instead of treating the classical writings of Asia as mere relics of "traditional" thought that will be replaced by more "modern" thinking, he demonstrates that the great books of Asia contain within them valuable concepts and insights for preserving civilized life in an age of materialistic globalization. By respectfully exploring what the Asian classics say about learning and leadership, virtue and civility, and nobility and the common good, de Bary clearly demonstrates that the West has no monopoly on liberal thought; Asian writers have much to say that is relevant to human rights, democracy, and civil society. In the past, de Bary has worked mainly within the context of Confucianism, but here he reaches out to include the texts of other Asian classical traditions. His revisiting of Ruth Benedict's The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, for example, opens up whole new dimensions of Japanese culture. Just to follow de Bary's journeys through Asian classical texts is an intellectually broadening experience for anyone, including specialists on contemporary Asia.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674015579
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.72 (w) x 8.36 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Wm. Theodore de Bary is John Mitchell Mason Professor of the University, Emeritus and Provost, Emeritus of Columbia University.
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Table of Contents

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
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