Political Meritocracy and Its Betrayal

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Abstract
Some Confucian scholars have recently claimed that Confucian political meritocracy is superior to Western democracy. I have great reservations about such a view. In this paper, I argue that so long as political meritocracy—be it Confucian or non-Confucian—does not commit itself to the ideal of democracy, it has the dangerous tendency to become politically oppressive in the hands of authoritarian rulers. To illustrate the problem, I first revisit Isiah Berlin’s classical discussion of the idea of positive liberty; he is deeply concerned about the abuse of this idea in the hands of dictators. Next, I examine Daniel Bell’s model of meritocracy in relation to China’s present form of governance. While Bell’s model and China’s present form of governance may not show political meritocracy at its best, they help to show that any version of political meritocracy that lacks a strong commitment to democracy tends to be political oppressive and, ultimately, may betray the ideal of political meritocracy.
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MANPMA-6
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Archival date: 2020-02-17
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2020-02-17

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