Confucianism in the Time of Coronavirus28 Mar 2020
One of the most well-known aspects of Confucian thought is the importance of the social order. Confucius thought it was important that everyone know their place in society. This idea is summarized by Confucius:
Let a prince be a prince, and ministers be ministers; let fathers be fathers, and sons be sons.–Confucius, Analects XII
But it means so much more. This is an extension of the filial piety idea, and shows that everyone’s place is both defined and ordered. That is, sons are beholden to fathers, wives to husbands, but also subjects to their king. This matters because if adopted as widespread though, leads to extreme social stability. This is one of the reasons by China has been remarkably stable for more than 2500 years.
Of course, the reason we study history is to help us understand the future. Right now, the world is event that can potentially upend the social order, globally. COVID-19 has exposed gaping holes in political, economic, and social systems, globally. That’s interesting, but what’s more important is how people respond to those holes. Extreme social stability, such as that proposed by Confucius may mean little changes in societies influences by Confucian thought. On the other hand, nations like the United States and France ground their founding myths on the importance of revolutionary change. What changes and what does not will tell us a lot about how people think.