Trapped between anger and apathy: On the problem of instability in Confucian meritocracy

Baldwin Bon-Wah Wong*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


    Recently, several political theorists have claimed that Confucian meritocracy offers a desirable alternative to democracy. This article argues that Confucian meritocracy is implausible because of its instability. Confucian meritocracy assumes an objective standard for good governance that enables the government to distinguish elites, who are more capable of achieving good governance, from ordinary people. However, in modern societies, there are hardly any objective standards of good governance that are commonly accepted among people in a society. Thus, Confucian meritocratic government more or less assumes a biased standard for the selection of elites, creating a sense of estrangement among ordinary people. People feel distancedfrom the ruling direction of the government, but they are unlikely to change it. Eventually, they fall into a cycle of apathy and anger, either becoming politically disinterested or aggressively expressing their resentment. In short, Confucian meritocracy veers between collective cynicism and violent protests.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Politics
    Publication statusAccepted/In press - 6 Feb 2024

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Political Science and International Relations
    • Philosophy

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Confucianism
    • Meritocracy
    • Stability
    • Pluralism
    • Moral psychology


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