Why Confucian Meritocrats Must Be Democrats : Contesting Non-political Human Rights

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

View graph of relations



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-306
Journal / PublicationContemporary Political Theory
Issue number3
Online published1 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


After a decades-long debate on the compatibility between Confucianism and human rights, Confucian political theorists now seem to generally agree that the fallback theory of rights provides an account of human rights acceptable to both sides of the debate. Interestingly, some Confucian political meritocrats make a distinction between non-political human rights and political rights, and argue that while the former are subject to the fallback theory of rights, the latter are subject to the so-called “service conception” of rights, which authorizes political hierarchy among citizens. After identifying the irresolvable tension between the fallback theory of rights and the service conception of political rights as a critical threat to Confucian political meritocracy’s internal stability, this article suggests that Confucian political meritocracy can overcome the instability problem only by taking seriously the political implications of the fallback theory of rights, which entails the endorsement of the right to political participation.

Research Area(s)

  • confucianism, fallback theory, human rights, political rights, service

Bibliographic Note

Full text of this publication does not contain sufficient affiliation information. Related Research Unit(s) information for this record is supplemented by the author(s) concerned.