Skip to main content
Confucian Values and Elite Support for Liberal Democracy in Taiwan: The Perils of Priestly Religion
Politics and Religion (2010)
  • Joel Fetzer, Pepperdine University
  • J. Christopher Soper, Pepperdine University

It is widely recognized that religious institutions and values play a prominent political role in various countries around the world. What is less clear is the degree to which other prominent ideologies perform an analogous role in regions where they predominate. The purpose of this article is to explore the relationship between Confucianism and liberal democracy in Taiwan. As the most important belief system in Taiwan and, indeed, in much of East Asia, Confucianism has provided a model of civic behavior for centuries, performing a largely priestly role. What is less apparent is whether Confucianism inhibited or promoted the development of liberal democracies in the region. While an extensive theoretical debate exists on this question, virtually no work analyzes how Confucianism has been understood by political actors on the ground. The data for this study consist of interviews with 27 politicians, democracy activists, Confucianism scholars, and journalists in Taiwan. The article tests whether or not, in the minds of these key political and cultural leaders, Confucian values are an aid or a hindrance to their efforts to promote liberal democracy. The concluding section discusses the implications of the empirical results for East Asian countries and addresses the parallels between Confucianism as an ideology in East Asia and the religious institutions and values in Western countries.

  • Taiwan,
  • religious institutions,
  • liberal democracy,
  • Confucianism,
  • religion,
  • politics
Publication Date
Citation Information
Joel Fetzer and J. Christopher Soper. "Confucian Values and Elite Support for Liberal Democracy in Taiwan: The Perils of Priestly Religion" Politics and Religion Vol. 3 Iss. 3 (2010)
Available at: