Harmony has become a major challenge for modern governance in the
twenty-first century because of the multi-religious, multi-racial
and multi-ethnic character of our increasingly globalized
societies. Governments all over the world are facing growing
pressure to integrate the many diverse elements and subcultures
which make up modern pluralistic societies. This book examines the
idea of harmony, and its place in politics and governance, both in
theory and practice, in Asia, the West and elsewhere. It explores
and analyses the meanings, mechanisms, dimensions and methodologies
of harmony as a normative political ideal in both Western and Asian
philosophical traditions. The book argues that in Western political
thought - which sees politics as primarily concerned with resolving
social conflicts and protecting individual rights - the concept of
harmony has often been neglected. In contrast, since earliest times
harmony or 'he' has been a profound theme in Confucian thought, and
current leaders of many East Asian governments, and the Chinese
government, have explicitly declared that the realisation of a
harmonious society is their aim. The book also assesses how harmony
is pursued, jeopardized or deformed in the real world of politics,
based upon empirical analysis of a variety of different cultural,
social and political contexts, including: China, Hong Kong,
Singapore, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Denmark, Latin America and
the Scandinavian countries. It shows how harmony as an organizing
concept can help to promote new thinking in governance, and
overcome problems of modern-day governance like distrust,
adversarial conflicts, hyper-individualism, coercive state
intervention, and free-market alienation. It also discusses the
potential problems posed by the pursuit of harmony, in particular
in the grave threat of totalitarianism, and considers how these
risks could best be mitigated.
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