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[Vol.32 (2019)] On the View that People and Not Institutions Bear Primary Credit for Success in Governance
Author : Justin Tiwald
Date : 19.09.02
Page : 65-97
Keyword : government, institutions, virtue, constitutionalism, Xunzi, Zhu Xi, Hu Hong, Huang Zongxi
Abstract :


This paper explicates the influential Confucian view that “people” (ren 人)
and not “institutional rules” (fa 法) are the proper sources of good governance
and social order, as well as some notable Confucian objections to
this position. It takes Xunzi 荀子, Hu Hong 胡宏, and Zhu Xi 朱熹 as the primary
representatives of the “virtue-centered” position, which holds that
people’s good character and not institutional rules bear primary credit
for successful governance. And it takes Huang Zongxi 黃宗羲 as a major
advocate for the “institutionalist” position, which holds that institutional
rules have some power to effect success independently of improvements
in character. As I show, the Confucian virtue-centered view is best captured
in two theses: first, that reforming people is far more demanding than
reforming institutional rules; second, that once the rules have reached a
certain threshold of viability, further improvements in those rules are
unlikely to be effective on their own. Once we specify the theses in this
way, we can catalogue the different respects and degrees to which the
more virtue-centered political thinkers endorse virtue-centrism in governance.
I also use this account of the major theses to show that Huang
Zongxi has more complicated and mixed views about the power of institutional
reform than scholars usually assume.


Attachments : Justin Tiwald 65-97.pdf


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