Atomism, Communitarianism, and Confucian Familism

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Charles Taylor criticizes many liberal theories based on a kind of atomism that assumes the individual self-sufficiency outside the polity. This not only causes soft-relativism and political fragmentation but also undermines the solidarity of the community, that is, the very condition of the formation of autonomous citizens. Taylor thus argues for communitarian politics which protects certain cultural common goods for sustaining the solidarity of the community. However, Brenda Lyshaug criticizes Taylor’s communitarianism as suppressing plurality and enhancing hostility among cultural groups. In the face of such controversies, I argue for modern Confucian familism which emphasizes the family as a common good that provides a safe, stable, and nurturing environment for nurturing children and cultivating civility for future generations with a sense of community and autonomy. I also defend Confucian familism from four possible criticisms: insufficiency of familism, hierarchical relationship in the family, the danger of nepotism, and challenge from postmodern families. I argue that unlike traditional Confucianism, modern moderation of the Confucian family can greatly reduce the hierarchical problem; its emphasis on the family as one of the foundations of politics can avoid the danger of being atomistic liberalism and suppressive communitarianism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259–275
Number of pages17
JournalFudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jan 2022


  • Atomism
  • Charles Taylor
  • Communitarianism
  • Confucianism
  • Familism


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