Political Philosophy in the Global South: Harmony in Africa, East Asia, and South America

In Uchenna B. Okeja (ed.), Routledge Handbook of African Political Philosophy. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 369-383 (2023)
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Harmony as a basic value is neglected in internationally influential philosophical discussions about rights, power, and other facets of public policy; it is not prominent in articles that appear in widely read journals or in books published by presses with a global reach. Of particular interest, political philosophers and policy makers remain ignorant of the similarities and differences between various harmony-oriented approaches to institutional choice from around the world. In this chapter, I begin to rectify these deficiencies by critically discussing the way harmony has figured into political philosophies from three major traditions in the Global South, namely, African ubuntu, East Asian Confucianism, and South American buen vivir. I point out that, although harmony is at the core of all three political philosophies, it is conceived in different ways, entailing incompatible prescriptions about things such as who should make laws and which sorts of beings have rights against the state. Such contrasting views call for rigorous cross-cultural dialogue amongst theorists of harmony, beyond mounting challenges to more individualist approaches that have been salient in modern Western political thought.

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Thaddeus Metz
Cornell University (PhD)


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