NOBILITY AND CIVILITY
Harvard University Press, 2004 - 272 pages
Globalization has become an inescapable fact of contemporary life. Some leaders, in both the East and the West, believe that human rights are culture-bound and that liberal democracy is essentially Western, inapplicable to the non-Western world. How can civilized life be preserved and issues of human rights and civil society be addressed if the material forces dominating world affairs are allowed to run blindly, uncontrolled by any cross-cultural consensus on how human values can be given effective expression and direction?
In a thoughtful meditation ranging widely over several civilizations and historical eras, Wm. Theodore de Bary argues that the concepts of leadership and public morality in the major Asian traditions offer a valuable perspective on humanizing the globalization process. Turning to the classic ideals of the Buddhist, Hindu, Confucian, and Japanese traditions, he investigates the nature of true leadership and its relation to learning, virtue, and education in human governance; the role in society of the public intellectual; and the responsibilities of those in power in creating and maintaining civil society.
De Bary recognizes that throughout history ideals have always come up against messy human complications. Still, he finds in the exploration and affirmation of common values a worthy attempt to grapple with persistent human dilemmas across the globe.
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Many passages in their works reveal the deep religious feelings of Murasaki and
Shonagon and the difficulty they experience in reconciling the impulse toward
world renunciation (going to a nunnery or going on retreat) and the aesthetic and
In thus serving the military leadership, as well as the surviving elite of the
aesthetic culture patronized by the Muromachi court in Kyoto, Zen monks played
an important role in what is known as the Higashiyama culture so formative of the
(244-245) In the essay excerpted here, Mishima traces in broad strokes a clear
continuity from the aesthetic culture of the Heian Court to its reenactment in the
Muromachi culture — claiming for it all of the classic cachet of "flower" (hana), ...
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