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This article reviews Shaun O’Dwyer’s latest book, Confucianism’s Prospects: A Reassessment (SUNY, 2019). By critiquing philosophical theories of “Confucian democracy” and their shared sociological assumption that Confucianism still functions as a cultural matrix for East Asian societies, O’Dwyer argues that visions on the future of Confucianism alternative to what the currently fixed institutional infrastructure of liberal democracy entails are flawed. This is mainly because if unconstrained by the infrastructure, the hardwired paternalism and elitism of Confucian ethics would necessarily impose morally taxing burdens upon a de facto pluralistic society. This article assesses O’Dwyer’s counterarguments to “Confucian democracy,” and proposes a different approach to estimate the prospects of Confucianism in the contemporary world.
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