The Indispensability of Moral Cultivation in Confucian Politics

Elton CHAN*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The Confucian vision of politics is often associated with a moralistic outlook, which treats politics less as an independent realm with distinctive features than an extension of an ethical enterprise. Loubna El Amine’s Classical Confucian Political Thought offers a serious challenge to this common impression by articulating an alternative realist account of Confucian politics. The objective of El Amine’s book is at once focused and ambitious. While she claims that her approach “will … not so much yield a radically different interpretation of Confucian political thought as much as a reconfiguration that better accounts for the textual evidence,” her “reconfiguration” nonetheless seeks to overturn the prevalent ethical reading of Confucian politics as an endeavor for the people’s moral transformation (El Amine 2015: 10).1 While I agree with much of El Amine’s realist depiction, in this essay I will argue that, notwithstanding its limited materialization in reality, moral transformation of the people cannot be ruled out from Confucianism as one of the ultimate, perhaps highest, objectives of politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-276
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Early online date10 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


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