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Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West

Autor:   •  December 11, 2016  •  Essay  •  1,653 Words (7 Pages)  •  231 Views

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Talia McMahon

November, 08, 2016

Book Review 1

The idea put forth in Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living In The East Teaches Us About Living In the West holds some unique ideas into the rise of East Asian counties from the rubble. History shows that through war, colonialism and other factors the West has dominated the world not only economically but through western thought. Hundreds of years of missionary work spreading the good word of Christianity has had lasting impacts until this very day; good or bad depending on who you talk to. The time has come to open our eyes to an alternative tradition and way of thought that seems to be behind the success of many Asian countries, specifically the rise of Japan.

The beginning of the book presented information that I found astonishing. Asian countries boost a number a statistics that completely changed my perspective on where the United States stands in the world on several important factors. We often call ourselves the greatest country in the world yet we fall short in many categories. Lower crime rates in areas such a murder, rape and robbery. The low levels of drug use put us to shame especially in recent light of the heroin and meth boom we are seeing right now. Divorce rates and the social attitude towards the acceptability of it are so different than in most western countries. Divorce in the United States has become a somewhat casual event, and having several of them aren’t seen as necessarily shameful nor would it make you an outcast in the community. The author attributes this to social attitudes not any legal measures taken by the state. The family unit is extremely important, raising children with both parents, a large extended family and fostering a community is a high priority. And due to fewer broken homes you don’t get high incidents of the resulting problems the stem from that such as children out of wedlock, crime, poverty, and stress.

Education systems in East Asia are ranked as some of the best in the world, setting children up for highly successful futures. The focus on education begins the day the child is born and is ongoing. The state itself sets education as a priority, not just the child’s parents, this is another example of how this is woven into the very fabric of these cultures. Asia has also found great success in creating countries with a fairly great equality of wealth and a huge middle class which lends itself to economic growth and stability. Looking at all these examples one does wonder how we can apply their formula to the West so that we can improve out quality of life here. We have failing school systems, high divorce and crime rates, a disappearing middle class and slow economy and what seems to be a great divide and disconnect in cultural values in this country.

Moral values according to the author is the key to success for East Asian countries. These shared beliefs which include education, loyalty, hard work and self-improvement are all a part of what is called the “Asian Spirit”.  The source of these values are found in the writing of Confucius, whose works were written over 2000 years ago. It is argued that these ancient teachings are directly linked and responsible for the growth and success of modern day Asia.  What has been coined Confucian capitalism is specifically responsible for the economic boom and new wealth many East Asian countries are enjoying. A quote by Princeton historian gives a clear outlook on what exactly Confucius ethics entails: “ This-worldly” in its orientation, Confucianism teaches individuals of both high and low birth to strive for success in their lifetime and in the long-term interests of their direct descendants. One need not reconcile oneself to one’s current lot in life, it says…Education is for everyone. Moral cultivation can be expected to pay dividends. In this environment, families could anticipate that hard work, savings, study, and attention to market opportunities would improve their standing in society. Such circumstances fostered a competitive and, within understandable premodern limitations, an entrepreneurial spirit.” (Reid, p. 17).


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