Alternate Civilities

Democracy and Culture in China and Taiwan


Robert Paul Weller

First Edition • April 1, 2001 • 188 pages


Print ISBN: 9780813339313 • $37.00 USD$71.50 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780786747801 • $25.99 USD$28.99 CAN

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Some Asian political leaders and Western academics have recently claimed that China is unlikely to produce an open political system. This claim rests on the idea that Confucian culture provides an alternative to Western civil values, and that China lacked the democratic traditions and even the horizontal institutions of trust that could build a civil society. An opposed school of thought is far more optimistic about democracy, because it sees market economies of the kind China has begun to foster as pushing inexorably against authoritarian political control and reproducing Western patterns of change.Alternate Civilities argues for a different set of political possibilities. By comparing China with Taiwan’s new and vibrant democracy, it shows how democracy can grow out of Chinese cultural roots and authoritarian institutions. The business organizations, religious groups, environmental movements, and women’s networks it examines do not simply reproduce Western values and institutions. These cases point to the possibility of an alternate civility, neither the stubborn remnant of an ancient authoritarian culture, nor a reflex of market economics. They are instead the active creation of new solutions to the problems of modern life.

Robert Weller has been doing research on local life in China and Taiwan for over two decades. His other books include Resistance, Chaos, and Control in China: Taiping Rebels, Taiwanese Ghosts, and Tiananmen, Unities and Diversities in Chinese Religions, and several edited works. He is research associate at the Institute for the Study of Economic Culture and associate professor of anthropology at Boston University.

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