The Importance of Confucianism and East Asia

I have just started my East Asia since 1945 class and one of the first topics we discussed was Confucianism and its role in the the rise of East Asia since WWII.  Whenever I read about this or discuss this, I wish that I had a stronger background in the actual writing of Confucius and his followers.  I bought a book of Confucius writing years ago, but didn’t make it far into it, whenever I find it again I will make an effort to go deeper.

I have lived in both Singapore and Korea, so I can recognize the supposed effects of Confucianism in my own experiences.  When I lived in Singapore, initially the group orientation made me uncomfortable, and in Korea the hierarchy of the workplace took getting used too, especially as the only foreign worker.  My co-workers would constantly remind me not to put my hands in my pockets when I was talking to the boss, or to stand up when he came into the office among other things, and then there was the importance of pouring my superiors shots of liquor at the company dinners.

Perhaps the biggest area that people point to as being successful due to culture is education.  In Korea and Singapore it is true that more value is placed on education, in general, than in America.  It seems to me that Americans would quickly catch up if they spent as much time at school as their Asian peers, regardless of cultural underpinnings.  In business, there are also comparative advantages and disadvantages.  As a worker I can understand the frustration of having to stay at work longer, of being required to go to things like company trips and dinners, but at the same time the bonding was a good experience, and the stability of not having to worry about things like layoffs as much as the West seems to be a major benefit.

This post is rambling partially because I do not have many concrete ideas about this topic, so in this case I would like to encourage readers to leave comments on what they think about the topic.


About Leon Whyte

I'm a recent graduate of the Fletcher school of Law and Diplomacy. My interests include Pacific Asia and Security. I am looking for related opportunities.
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