Houjun Liu

SU-COLLEGE110 First Essay Planning

Several authors we have read questioned the possibility or appropriateness of democracy in countries where certain social structures and cultural ideologies are dominant—e.g., cases of Singapore and China. Do you think that particular cultures hinder the practice of democracy? Evaluate the debate on whether democracy has a universal appeal or is only appropriate to some cultures. What evidence exists to support each side of the debate and is it compelling? Take a position in this debate and make an argument for that position.

General Information

Due DateTopicImportant Documents

Claim Synthesis

Quotes Bin

conflates individual educational growth with familial growth

We have focused on basics in Singapore. We used the family to push economic growth, factoring the ambitions of a person and his family into our planning. We have tried, for example, to improve the lot of children through education.” ([⁨Zakaria⁩ and ⁨Yew⁩, 1994, p. 114])

claims family as a unit for survival

And through all that turbulence, the family, the extended family, the clan, has provided a kind of survival raft for the individual” ([⁨Zakaria⁩ and ⁨Yew⁩, 1994, p. 115])

family as a means of increasing survival over time

But the family and the way human relationships are structured, do increase the survival chances of its members. That has been tested over thousands of years in many different situations.” ([⁨Zakaria⁩ and ⁨Yew⁩, 1994, p. 115])

rejects equal representation by using family values as a proxy for long-term thinking

But I’m convinced, personally, that we would have a better system if we gave every man over the age of 40 who has a family two votes because he’s likely to be more careful, voting also for his children. He is more likely to vote in a serious way than a capricious young man under 30. But we haven’t found it necessary yet.” ([⁨Zakaria⁩ and ⁨Yew⁩, 1994, p. 119])

equates having diversity with separateness, wc of “sensitive”

You cannot have too many distinct components and be one nation. It makes interchangeability difficult. If you want complete separateness then you should not come to live in the host country. But there are circumstances where it is wise to leave things be. For instance, all races in Singapore are eligible for jobs and for many other things. But we put the Muslims in a slightly different category because they are extremely sensitive about their customs, especially diet.” ([⁨Zakaria⁩ and ⁨Yew⁩, 1994, p. 120])

America takes action on a nation level whereas Singapore acts on the individual level

“When [America] is provoked it captures the president of Panama and brings him to trial in Florida. Singapore does not have that option. We cant go to Burma and capture warlords there. What we can do is to pass a law which says that any customs officer or policeman who sees anybody in Singapore behaving suspiciously, leading him to suspect the person is under the influence of drugs, can require that man to have his urine tested.” ([⁨Zakaria⁩ and ⁨Yew⁩, 1994, p. 120])

characterizes American individualism as dogmatic yet not universal

But the idea of the inviolability of the individual has been turned into dogma. And yet nobody minds when the army goes and captures the president of another state and brings him to Florida and puts him in jail. I find that incomprehensible.” ([⁨Zakaria⁩ and ⁨Yew⁩, 1994, p. 112])

describes hierarchy and structure as also an element of Western thought

Hierarchy, deference and elitism are ideas well rooted in the tradition of Western conservative thought, and they derive their relevance for Bell’s work from debates internal to the history of Western political thought. So why travel to the East to discover them?” ([Nathan, p. 76])

some metric states that the US is a non-pure-democratic Republic

From this premise, according to a not uncommon belief among Americans, it follows that the United States is not a democracy but a republic..” ([Dahl, 2001, p. 5])

US electoral college is not proportional representation (i.e. non pure democracy)

Yet the electoral college still preserved features that openly violated basic democratic principles: citizens of different states would be unequally represented, and a candidate with the largest number of popular votes might lose the presidency because of a failure to win a majority in the electoral college.” ([Dahl, 2001, p. 31])

US politics’ competition is a distraction

The people lack any real opportunity to think in depth about what they really want done. Instead they have competitive political sports and distractions.” ([Fishkin, 2018, p. 1])

leadership can be effective without a correct objective

A leader with superior intellectual and social skills is potentially the worst kind of leader, because he or she can figure out the best way of realizing immoral purposes.” ([Bell, 2015, p. 19])

claims studying Confucian texts would improve the virtune of the studier

The key argument is that studying the Confucian classics improves the virtue of the learner.” ([Bell, 2015, p. 21])

places value in “superior” intelligence of leaders and their analytical skills

“In sum, today’s world requires political leaders with superior intellectual abilities—analytical skills and knowledge of different disciplines and traditions—and an examination system can help to test for such abilities.” ([Bell, 2015, p. 14])

believes that valuing intelligence does not undermine emotional intelligience

To the extent that there are differences between the requirements of leadership in the business and political worlds, they do not necessarily undermine, and may in fact reinforce, the case for emotional intelligence.” ([Bell, 2015, p. 15])

believes that governance and human rights standards differs based on individualism

If Asian cultures are less individualistic than Western ones, then perhaps certain forms of governance and policies are more suitable to Asian societies that are different from the human rights standards typically endorsed by liberal theorists” ([Bell, 2015, p. 3])

believes that Bell’s characterization of meritocracy is idealistic

[Bell] compares apples and oranges— the actual performance of liberal democracies with the potential performance of a merito cratic system.” ([Nathan, p. 81])

definitions of success is metric sensitive

The claim that authoritarian systems perform better than democracies of course depends on the criteria for performance.” ([Nathan, p. 80])

Bell characterizes performance by harmony

The second way in which Bell evaluates performance is to identify it with a value he labels “harmony.” ([Nathan, p. 81])

as time progressed, America may have become more democratic

We can be reasonably sure, however, that the delegates would [in 1820] have attempted to provide more support for, and fewer barriers to, a democratic republic.” ([Dahl, 2001, p. 38])

Korea and Japan cited as strong governments with strong interference

In Korea, for example, each household is required to attend monthly neighborhood meetings to receive government directives and dis cuss local affairs. Japans powerful gov ernment constantly intrudes into the business world to protect perceived national interests, to the point of causing disputes with the United States and other trading partner (Kim Dae Jung)

structure as a means to freedom

In the East the main object is to have a well-ordered society so that everybody can have maximum enjoyment of his freedoms. This freedom can only exist in an ordered state and not in a nat ural state of contention and anarchy.

lack of liberty is a threat to democracy

“Liberties of thought and discussion are necessary for any widespread application of what we will call deliberative democracy by the people themselves.” [Fishkin, 2018, p. 6]


“if she joined the customs or immigration department where it would be confusing to the millions of people who stream through to have some customs officer looking different, she must wear the unifor” (⁨Zakaria⁩ and ⁨Yew⁩, 1994, p. 121) (pdf)

Sub-Claim Development

conflation of the enforcement of structure against the lack of individual rights is how eastern societies can be seen as undemocratic

definitions of success is metric sensitive, and Bell characterizes performance by harmony—structure. Yet, he conflates his advocacy of structure with the fact that human rights standards apparently differs based on individualism, leading to a threat to democracy.

yet, structure and democracy are not the same thing

realistically, American individualism is a dogma more so than a property about democracy: America takes action on a nation level whereas Singapore acts on the individual level.

while some authors highlights equal representation by using family values as a proxy for long-term thinking as a lack of democratic features—citing Korea and Japan as strong governments with strong interference, those countries are arguably not undemocratic.

In fact, America also doesn’t have porportional representation either.

if individualism is a dogma, structure is too—one which is used to promote authoritarian control but is not necessarily connected

Lee claims that structure is a means to freedom—evocative of an Orwellian doublespeak to forcibly tie liberty and structure together. This tie: muslim cultural traditions characterized under “sensitivity” using structure dogma (use of the word “sensitivity”). When policy requires education, support of individualistic growth under education can also be characterized as helping the family.

what are the metrics?

Indeed, hierarchy and structure as also an element of Western thought. so we need better metrics about democracy before beginning to argue about it. leadership can be effective without a correct objective.

other stuff

The Claim

Though the overriding desire for orderly social structure in the East is often cited as a central value which precludes the development of democracy in Eastern societies, the promotion of a structured society can be treated as an independent goal in society to the spread of democracy; the conflation of lack of democracy with the enforcement of societal structure, then, occurs due to its convenient use by authoritarian rulers as a dogma to promote their form of social control.