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  • P-ISSN0023-3900
  • E-ISSN2733-9343

[Debate] Reconsidering the Term "Asian Values" and Reformulating the Debate: What s Ethical in "Confucian Ethics"?

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2002, v.42 no.4, pp.231-263

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Abstract

This essay argues that the term 'Asian values' is vague, irrelevant, and impractical. There is no categorical common ground for the term 'Asian values,' which refers to so many religious legacies, traditions, languages, and cultures. Instead, 'Confucian values' is a more specified concept. Recently many scholars have argued that 'Confucian values' promote and abet economic success. They point to the so-called economic 'miracle' countries such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong and note that these countries have strong Confucian legacies. This essay argues that the causal relationship between 'Confucian values' and economic success is spurious. The original theoretical frame that first attempted to find the causality between religious ethics and economic ethics, more specifically, between Protestant ethics and 'the spirit of capitalist'--that is, Max Weber's work--cannot be proved by historical evidence. Scholars have proved that early Calvinism or orthodox Puritanism hampered, rather than facilitated, the development of capitalism. What is really important in Max Weber's life project is not the relationship between religious 'values' and capitalist development but the relationship between religious (especially) Protestant ethics and the 'methodical (ethical) way of life' in modern society. This paper tries to revive Max Weber's original interests in the relationship between modernity and religious ethical legacies. In this way the author proposes to reformulate the debate on 'Asian Values' and transform it into a new debate on the question--'What is ethical in Confucian ethics?'

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Korea Journal