Confucian Capitalism: Discourse, Practice and the Myth of Chinese Enterprise

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Pia Muzaffar , Feb 1 , views This content was written by a student and assessed as part of a university degree. Gary Bryson: The Book of Songs provides a good example of how the classic Chinese texts were edited and interpreted, part of a process of constructing Chinese culture itself. Roger Ames.

Roger Ames: The Book of Songs was a collection of originally 3, poems or ballads or songs that were collected from every stratum of the Chinese civilisation. They were a complex of musical verses that belonged to the whole culture, and Confucius takes the 3, and edits them down to And the way in which they function in the world of ancient China is kind of like the way the Bible would function in pre-modern European culture where the Bible gives you a shared vocabulary, a set of metaphors, a set of anecdotes and allusions that everybody knows, that everybody can use to further discussion in their own culture.

Well the Book of Songs was like that. Philosophers would borrow a song and they would use it as a concluding argument, that if the Book of Songs in fact enforced some speculation on their part, that would give them absolute veracity. It was truth.

It was the word of the people. It was this anonymous text that Confucius had edited it together, that spoke the sound from the ground, and gave authority to people that would cite it. It is a rare thing for someone who has a sense of filial and fraternal responsibility to have a taste for defying authority. And it is unheard of for those who have no taste for defying authority to be keen on initiating rebellion. Exemplary persons concentrate their efforts on the root, for the root having taken hold, the way will grow therefrom.

As for filial and fraternal responsibility, it is, I suspect, the root of authoritative conduct. Paul Rule: He's a radical in the sense that he wants to return to the past, and when you look at some of his teachings, they are pretty radical ideas. You should give the correct names to things. So he said, "A king should king, a king should act as a king should act", and the logical consequence of that of course is a king who was not acting as a king, is no longer a king.

Calling things by their correct name, or rectification of names as it was called, is actually a very radical program. And so there is a very real sense in which Confucius sees himself as a transmitter rather than an original philosopher. But that can really take us in the wrong direction, in the sense that we are always looking at Confucius through our own lenses, through our own glasses, and we tend to think of creativity in terms of origins, whereas in the Chinese tradition, creativity is expressed in terms of increased significance over time.

So Confucius in appropriating these classics, and editing these classics out of the Chinese tradition, it's not the word of God, it's something that is built upon over generations, and so he inherits it, he adds to it, he passes it on, and across the millennia that constitute imperial China, the identity of China is constructed by an ongoing reconsideration, reauthorisation, reconstrual of these canons. Ann Sadler: Now, there are different times when we have to be loyal to people, and I want you to try and think of some, because I want you to write in your book yourself Ann Sadler Gary Bryson: The head of the temple is Master Yu.

He's Korean, reflecting the origins of this particular branch of Confucianism. Master Yu: with translator The main teaching is to start from ourself, our mind, and also our family, the great values of family, the get-together, so we are very conscious about the teaching of the youngsters, that what we say and our actions should be the same. It shouldn't be that we say one thing and do another.

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And once you behave yourself and you do what is right, you influence the people beside you and so the society will become even better. So we believe in starting from yourself, you do it from yourself first. Gary Bryson: Is this a difficult message to get across to young people today particularly? Master Yu: with translator When you come into the prayer hall you see some youngsters, youth, we train them to bow, to be humble, so that you respect others and you respect yourself, and once this environment is widened, you actually influence the surrounding of your people, your family, your friends.

So it's a very important message to the youth society. Zizhang asked Confucius about authoritative conduct. Confucius replied, 'A person who is able to carry into practice five attitudes in the world can be considered authoritative'. Confucius replied, 'Deference, tolerance, making good on one's word, diligence, and generosity. If you are deferential, you will not suffer insult; if tolerant, you will win over the many; if you make good on your word, others will rely upon you; if diligent, you will get results; if generous, you will have the status to employ others effectively'.

Gary Bryson: From his readings of the five classics, Confucius developed a curriculum which foregrounded the importance of ritual propriety, family loyalty, trust and compassion. He believed that everyone was capable of becoming what he called an authoritative or exemplary person, but that we could only achieve this through learning. Tu Weiming: Learning is for the sake of the self rather than for the sake of others.

And the self is always understood as a centre of relationships, which involves the family, the community, nation and so forth, and learning is character-building rather than simply the acquisition of knowledge, or internalisation of skills. In this sense, it's very clearly stated, learning is to learn to be human, even though we are all human beings. But unlike any other animals, we are selfconsciously involved in shaping our own characters, in this sense learning to be human is an important aspect of Confucian learning. Gary Bryson: When Confucius talked about an authoritative person or an exemplary person, are these to be regarded as templates, or degrees of perfection on the way to becoming human?

Tu Weiming: Yes, I think so. And of course it's a very interesting paradox. On the one hand, every human being is a potential sage, so you can say that in the ultimate sense or the logical sense that every human being is a sage.

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But existentially, in the actual way of living, no person, including Confucius, could claim to be a sage. In other words, you are potentially a sage, but you have to try to learn to become one and that learning process is ceaseless, it's continuous. Gary Bryson: Over the years, the teachings of Confucius have been interpreted and reinterpreted by any number of Chinese scholars, as well as being co-opted into religious practice. And yet Confucius himself wrote very little. What we know to be the most authentic of his thoughts exist in a slim volume of verses, known as the Lun Yu , or The Analects.


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Roger Ames: The Analects are a collection of remembrances by people who associated with Confucius, by people who inherited the wisdom of Confucius. Probably the kernel of the Analects begins with people who believed that somebody very special had walked among them, and so they got together in some kind of a congress and wrote some things down that remembered this special person. And then it grows over time, with the later books of the Analects being reflections by people who had gone in their own direction, re-thinking and expanding upon the ideas of Confucius.

What is fundamental to the Confucian tradition is that you're not dealing with something that is complete, but you're dealing with a narrative that constantly needs to be reinterpreted, given the problems of the era through which it is being transmitted. So you don't have philosophical systems, you don't move from a Plato to an Aristotle to a Kant to a Hegel, what you have is commentarial, reflection on these kinds of canons, where each commentator is a participant in enlarging something that is corporate, something that's alive, something that is expanded upon in response to the compelling issues of the day.

Roger Ames: With the Analects there's no discernible order. What you have is individual passages that are remembrances of Confucius in discussion with other people that belong to his world. The way that you put it together is by drawing allusions among the various passages, like if you look at this passage that says for example, "It's the human being that broadens the way, not the way that broadens the human being". That's a passage that really says that the human being really has to be a road-builder.


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The road is not built and you simply walk it, your ancestors have given you a bearing, they've given you a direction, but each generation must step up and make their own contribution to extend the human way. So then you read that passage and then you think, well, that reminds me of another passage where Confucius says that "in becoming consummate as a human being, you can't capitulate, even to your teacher". What that means is that your teacher is a model for you, as an inspiration, but you have to do this thing on your own terms, you have to take what you've got and you have to become consummately who you are, you have to become your own person.

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And so the way the text works is one passage reminds you of another passage, reminds you of another passage, and over time, what you do is you put together a kind of set of correlations that constitute an understanding of the text. Karyn Lai: Scholars used to believe that Confucius wrote this and wrote that, and even the primary text, the Confucian conversations - the Analects - Confucius didn't write, so it's hard trying to trace back to this historical figure. Scholars prefer to talk about the Confucian tradition, whereby it's a case of layer upon layer of interpretation.

The two key ideas that Confucius develops in the Analects are the notion of Ren , compassion, and Li , social ritual. These two ideas form a tension in Confucian thought, and they underpin the importance of family and harmony. Karyn Lai: Ren is kind of a benevolence and I believe Confucius used it at two levels. At one level is this general sympathy, compassion, benevolence, that was one of the meanings of Ren. The other meaning of Ren is a much more precise one, and it's got to do with the cultivation of special relationships.