Asian Values


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Slides on the Asian Values Debate for an undergraduate course in Political Thought that I taught between 2003-2005.

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  • Learning Objectives: 1.) To become acquainted with the Asian Values debate. 2.) To understand the broader “cultural” critique on the applicability of liberal democracy (as a form of rule).
  • Asian Values

    1. 1. culture and democracy
    2. 2. Overview <ul><li>What are the key arguments surrounding the “Asian Values” debate? </li></ul><ul><li>Who are the main proponents of “Asian Values”? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the implications of this debate on the practice of liberal democracy? </li></ul>
    3. 3. The Asian Values Debate <ul><li>Primarily emphasized the role of culture in the economic success of East Asian countries </li></ul><ul><li>Centered around the proposition that certain cultural traits were conducive to economic growth and development </li></ul><ul><li>Proponents: Lee Kwan Yew, Mahathir Mohammad, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Has implications on politics as well. </li></ul>
    4. 4. Context <ul><li>Associating political/economic realities with cultural characteristics is nothing new </li></ul><ul><li>Arguably, the first social philosopher to have done so in a coherent manner was Max Weber in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism </li></ul>
    5. 5. Context <ul><li>In the late 1970s to the early 1980s, countries in East Asia experienced rapid economic growth and development </li></ul><ul><li>These countries achieved in mere decades what Western countries took over centuries to accomplish </li></ul><ul><li>Pundits credited the remarkable occurrence to cultural characteristics of East Asian countries </li></ul>
    6. 6. CULTURAL TRAITS +1 consensual conflictual DECISION-MAKING patriarchs / patrons servants of the people VIEW OF LEADERS social stability social mobility & change SOCIETAL EMPHASIS conformity individualism PRIMARY SOCIAL VALUE family / community individual SOCIAL AGENT EAST WEST
    7. 7. The Cultural Critique <ul><li>Liberal democracy is primarily a Western phenomenon applicable only in the West </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Its value orientations are ultimately incompatible with those of other cultures </li></ul></ul>
    8. 8. The Cultural Critique <ul><li>What matters is not the kind of government a country possesses, but whether government gets the job done </li></ul><ul><ul><li>People basically desire the same things of their government </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Governments can only work if they are suited to specific cultural contexts </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. <ul><li>It is problematic to “transplant” democracy to other cultures </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The practice is imperialistic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The West does not possess a monopoly over what form of government is proper to individual countries </li></ul></ul>The Cultural Critique
    10. 10. Shortcomings <ul><li>Cultures are complex </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They encompass a broad gamut of characteristics and social phenomena </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They are not absolute in and of themselves </li></ul></ul>
    11. 11. Shortcomings <ul><li>As explanatory variables, culture is problematic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Causality is unclear: whether it is deterministic remains uncertain </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It is used to explain phenomenon either way </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. Shortcomings <ul><li>Whether cultures are irreconcilably different is debatable </li></ul><ul><ul><li>There are commonalities across cultures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cultural values may be seen as generally the same, but the emphasis on these values differs </li></ul></ul>