Hierarchical Rituals for Egalitarian Societies

  • Daniel A. BellEmail author
Part of the Philosophical Studies in Contemporary Culture book series (PSCC, volume 21)


This chapter will explore what possible role traditional, hierarchical Confucian rituals can play in contemporary, egalitarian societies. This chapter also explores the importance that ritual plays in Chinese and East Asian political thought as opposed to the emphasis in modern, western political thought on the role of coercive legal and political force. Moreover, those who seek political reforms in China may by placing an excessive focus on legal mechanisms, further undermining the sense of community that makes the powerful care for the interests of the vulnerable. Since rituals are already deeply embedded in the philosophical outlooks and everyday social practices in East Asian societies, it is not far-fetched to believe that social reformers can and should be more attentive to the positive function of rituals in China and elsewhere.


Confucianism China Xunzi (Confucius) Communitarianism Liberalism 



An earlier and abridged version of this essay was published in my book China’s New Confucianism: Politics and Everyday Life in a Changing Society (Princeton University Press, rev. ed. 2010). I am grateful to Steve Angle, Bai Tongdong, Peter Baier, Joseph Chan, Chan Sin Yee, John Delury, Corrina Delkeskamp-Hayes, Fan Ruiping, Steve Geisz, PJ Ivanhoe, Jeremy Moss, Anthony Ou, Qian Jiang, Li Wanquan, Henry Rosemont, Jr., Masayuki Sato, Tsai Ying-Wen and Paik Wooyeal for helpful written comments on earlier drafts of this chapter. Thanks to John Dryzek for suggesting the title. I would also like to thank 姜海波 and 武云 for research assistance.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zhiyuan Chair Professor, Institute of Arts and HumanitiesJiaotong UniversityShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China

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