A comparative study of the anti-Confucianism of Fukuzawa Yukichi and Yi Kwang-su
The purpose of this thesis is to make a critical interpretation of the nature and implications of anti-Confucianism in East Asian political thought by examining the works of two representative anti-Confucianists, Fukuzawa Yukichi and Yi Kwang-su. In terms of its historical significance, Anti-Confucianism can be said to be equivalent to enlightenment thought in eighteenth century, Europe. Yet notwithstanding its importance, there have been few detailed studies of Anti-Confucian thinkers. This study is an examination of the work of two of the most important anti- Confucianist thinkers - Fukuzawa Yukichi in Japan and Yi Kwang-su in Korea. These writers both sought to attack Confucianism in the light of Western political ideas. In doing so, they employed two cardinal Western political concepts: liberal individualism and nationalism. Their theories contributed to a two phased assault on Confucian values: in the first phase, liberal individualism was used to undermine the Confucian emphasis on the family. But while this first wave of opposition weakened Confucianism, it did not destroy it. The second wave of opposition- however, based on nationalism succeeded in redirecting Confucian collectivism into an illiberal nationalistic form. In the writings of both Fukuzawa and Yi this study traces the path of each of these assaults. In both theorists' work, liberal individualism gave way to nationalistic sentiments, thereby exemplifying and contributing to the currents running through their respective societies, Japan and Korea. The thesis has five chapters. The first two chapters are an introduction to the nature of Confucianism. In chapters three and chapter four, which respectively deal with Fukuzawwa,'s and Yi's anti-Confucianism, discussion centres around the following themes: their conceptions of liberal individualism and nationalism; how they reinterpreted Confucianism in the light of their conception of liberal individualism and nationalism, and how they attempted to reconcile the two different demands of liberal individualism and nationalism in their anti-Confucianism. The conclusion of the thesis is that Fukuzaw a's and Yi's anti-Confucianism failed, in that their association of liberal individualism with nationalism led to a jettisoning of the liberal individualism in their later life. This resulted in an insufficient challenge to the Confucian legacy and a constraint on the growth of liberal individualism in the two countries.