Western and Confucian civilisations: essential differences in

The Lecturer: Professor Krzysztof Gawlikowski, Ph.D.
e-mail: kgawlikowski@swps.edu.pl
Western and Confucian civilisations:
essential differences in business and management cultures.
An Introduction
Lectures, 30 hours
Academic year 2011/12, winter semester, Tuesday, 12.00-13.30, room S-203
The course description:
At the beginning of the 21st century there are the three economic and political centres in the
world: the USA, European Union and North-East Asia, in particular China and Japan. The USA
and Europe both share Western, essentially Christian, civilisation, whereas China and Japan
share Confucian-Buddhist civilisation. These two civilisations encompass almost a half of the
mankind and the powers belonging to them lead the contemporary world. F.W.Mote indicates
that these two civilisations are the most diverse in the world, although the processes of
modernization connected them and unified various aspects of life in the countries belonging to
them. Notwithstanding the processes of partial westernisation of Asian countries, the profound
cultural differences remain and will be maintained in the foreseeable future. Of course,
individual countries within each of these civilisations have their own distinctive cultures.
The course presents Western and Confucian-Buddhist civilisations, their origins,
peculiar characteristics, and main differences, indicating various practical implications for their
diverse business and management cultures, as well as their influence on everyday life and ways
of thinking. The contemporary debates on the interrelations among various civilisations, and on
the changing role of the West are also presented. The course is of an interdisciplinary nature and
combines anthropological, historical, philosophical and political approaches.
Confucian-Buddhist civilisation originated in China, but shaped also Japanese, Korean,
and Vietnamese cultures and traditions. One has to bear in mind that the Chinese live in
numerous states or separate administrative entities. The People’s Republic of China includes
such autonomous units, as Hong Kong and Macao, there are also Taiwan (of a controversial
political status) and Singapore. Moreover Chinese communities play an essential role in the
South-East Asian economies. All together the people sharing this civilisation count for ca.
1,800 million. The West has Christian roots and is based on the Ancient Greek and Roman
traditions, and its modern form was shaped by the Enlightenments. It includes Europe, the USA
and Canada, as well as Australia and New Zealand, inhabited by slightly more than 1 billion
peoples (it is a controversial issue whether East.Europe, where the Orthodox Church
predominates, belongs to the West, there are also doubts concerning Latin America). Today
Western civilisation is also appreciated, at least, partially by the elite in the numerous Asian,
African, and Latin American countries; hence it has a special position in the world.
The aim of the course:
In the epoch of globalisation the business people, managers and politicians rarely could operate
merely in their own societies or to deal only with societies similar to their own. Usually they
have to co-operate and deal with the people grown up in other civilisations. For instance, the
Westerners have to deal with the East Asians, and vice versa. People from the countries, which
do not belong to any of these two civilisations, have to learn the rules of the both alien
civilisations. Operators should know at least essential rules of other civilisations to succeed,
and first of all should realise that the rules of their own societies are not universal. The course is
outlined to facilitate understanding of each of these great civilisations: Western and Confucian.
This could be helpful not only to the Westerners and the East Asians, but for persons from a
third civilisation as well, for instance Islamic. Such a brief course could merely indicate some
of the most fundamental differences and illustrate the problem of differences in cultures and
traditions, that determine also differences I the ways of doing business and in management.
The demands:
The participation at the lectures is obligatory, since the existing literature covers only some
problems, and in order to compensate the absence a student should read numerous books and
studies, which would be difficult and time consuming. Only 3 abstentions could be accepted.
During the course of lectures students are expected to read indicated publications in order to
understand better the subject. The use of internet sources is also recommended. Every student
can interrupt the lecture posing additional questions or asking for explanations of unclear
problems. The course ends with a written test. In particular individual cases an additional oral
examination could be arranged to complement the written test.
The topics of lectures:
1. The significance of the West and of East Asia in the contemporary world. The origins of
Western and Confucian civilisations, their evolution, diffusion, and changing mutual
interrelations. Their internal differentiation. Other great civilisations.
2. Various theories and concepts concerning cultural differences, their significance and their
evolution: civilisation vs. ‘barbarians’ or numerous civilisations; ethnocentrism; ideas of
the ‘mission of the West’ and of ‘decline of the West’; the idea of ‘progress’; F.
Fukuyama’s ‘the end of history’; S. P. Huntington’s ‘the clash of civilisations’; S.N.
Eisenstadt’s ‘the Axial Age’ and the ‘multiple modernities’; J.M. Guéhenno’s and M.
Castells’s the future ‘net structures’ instead democracy; UN ‘dialogue between cultures and
3. Western and Confucian civilisations - their fundamental differences:
a) God and the world created by him vs. The Way (dao) and the concept of gigantic
‘Organism’ (with order/disorder cycles); the separation of matter and spirits vs. ‘integral
entities’; the Absolute Truth vs. multiple and relative truths; the separation of sacrum
and profanum vs. ‘objects containing/manifesting certain powers’
b) Equality vs. Hierarchy; the world and Man from the Eastern and the Western
c) Antagonistic dualism (God – Satan/ Light-Darkness) vs. complementary dualism (Yin
and Yang/Feminine and Masculine principles); absolute categories vs. relative
categories; Permanence vs. eternal and endless Changes; the Western concepts of
Choice and of Conscience; Pluralism and Struggle vs. Unity and Harmony;
d) Time and Space: linear vs. Cyclical; undifferentiated vs. differentiated; cause and result
vs. a ‘sequence of states’ and ‘resonance’; the role of ‘conditions’ and Men’s
5. Man and Society:
a) ‘Individualistic self’ vs. ‘group self’/’interdependent self’, R. Ames’ concept
‘focus-and-the-field’; contradictory attitudes towards ‘public’ and ‘private’;
b) The Western concept of the ‘inborn self’ vs. Asian concepts of perfecting/developing
self: Confucian ‘Sage’; taoist ‘Immortal’, Buddhist buddha and bodhisattva;
c) Different concept of Man’s ‘spirit’; one invaluable life or endless incarnations; different
relations with the Nature;
d) Different types of religiousness: orthodoxy vs. orthopraxy; separated ‘religion’ vs.
diffused and syncretic religiousness; theocentrism vs. anthropocentrism;
4. Society: its organisation and functioning:
a) Glorification of Struggle and Competition vs. apotheosis of Harmony, Consensus and
Peace; adversary systems vs. ‘fiducial communities’ (Tu Wei-ming); manifestation of
individualism vs. ‘to be like others’; glorification of rebellions and protests vs. Respect
for authority, obedience, accord, softness; the practical problems of saying ‘no’;
b) Open struggle and chivalrous codes vs. secret struggle and the use of stratagems;
c) Western egalitarian spirit and informal behaviour vs. Respect for hierarchy; Western
low ritual societies vs. Confucian high ritual societies, ambiguity and tolerance for
differences vs. precision and intolerance; individual freedom vs. obeying strict norms;
d) Western fixation on Law vs. Confucian Li (Etiquette, Norms); Western emphasis on
Rights vs. Confucian emphasis on duties;
e) Western glorification of autonomous Individual vs. Confucian glorification of Family
and of Community; different treatment of the Other; the Confucian concepts of ‘face’,
‘renqing’ and of ‘guanxi’; formalised impersonal power vs. paternalistic power;
different concepts of ‘democracy’ and different approaches to politics.
6. Business and management:
a) Different approaches to a company/firm and to work; different priorities: profit making
vs. social ties; fixed formal agreement in a written form vs. verbal agreement, flexibility
and ‘mutual understanding’;
b) Individual arbitrary decisions by the chiefs vs. collective, consensual decisions; various
styles of directing/using subordinates; Western concept of ‘stick and carrot’ - Confucian
concept of wen and wu;
c) Western fixation on strict principles vs. Confucian ethical tradition, ‘contextual ethics’,
and the pragmatic Legalist, Strategic and Taoist traditions; Chinese strategic concepts
and the art of planning and manipulating.
d) Etiquette in business – practical advices; styles and modes of negotiating.
Obligatory Readings:
Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and Remaking of World Order, NY, Simon
& Shuster, 1996, Part I; Part III, chapter 6; Part IV, chapter 8; Part V.
Richard E. Nisbett, The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think
Differently…and Why? New York, Free Press, 2003.
Michael Harris Bond, Beyond the Chinese Face: Insights from Psychology, Oxford, Oxford
University Press, 1991.
Krzysztof Gawlikowski, From False ‘Western Universalism’ Towards True ‘Universal
Universalism’, “Dialogue and Universalism”, no. 10-12/2004, pp. 31-58 (available in an
electronic form)
(All available at the Oriental Division of our Library, Room no. 113)
Recommended Readings:
Fred Alford, Think no evil: Korean values in the age of globalization, Cornell
University Press, 1999
Wm. Theodore de Bary, Irene Bloom, eds, Sources of East Asian Tradition, New York :
Columbia University Press, 2008.
Min Chen, Asian management systems : Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Styles of Business ,
Thomson Learning, London 2007.
Ricardo Duchesne, The Uniqueness of Western Civilization, Leiden, E. J. Brill, 2011.
Shmuel N. Eisenstadt, Multiple Modernities, „Deadalus“, vol. 129, no. 1 (Winter 2000), 1-29,
available at www.havenscenter.org/files/Esenstadt2000_MultipleModernities.pdf
-------------,ed., Axial Civilizations and World History, ed. et all, Brill, 2005
-------------, Multiple Modernities, Transaction Publishers 2002
-------------, Comparative Civilizations and Multiple Modernities, Brill, 2003
-------------, The Great Revolutions and The Civilizations of Modernity, Brill, 2006.
The Essence of War : Leadership and Strategy from the Chinese Military Classics, Boulder,
Westview Press, 2004.
John K. Fairbank, China: a New History , Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press, 2006.
Niall Ferguson, Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, N. Y. 2003.
-------------, Civilization: The West and the Rest, Allen Lane,
Francis Fukuyama, The Clash of Cultures and American Hegemony: A Presentation to the
American Political Science Association, September 1, 2006, available at:
Tanja Fuss, Negotiations with the Japanese : Overcoming Intercultural Communication
Hurdles , Stuttgart, 2005
Krzysztof Gawlikowski, Western and Chinese civilisations: a contemporary drive towards the
harmonious world from a historical perspective, the paper presented at The First
Conference of the World Cultural Forum: Dialogue and Cooperation for World Harmony
and Common development, Suzhou, China, May 18-19, 2011.
----------------, Nation; a Mythological Being, W. Eberhard, K. Gawlikowski, C.A. Seyschab,
eds., East Asian Civilisations, New Attempts at Understanding Traditions, vol. 2, Nation
and Mythology, Muenchen, Verlag Simon& Magiera, 1983, 10-37.
David L. Hall, Roger T. Ames, Self, Truth, and Transcendence in Chinese and Western
Culture, Albany; State University of New York Press, 1998.
Geir Helgesen, Søren Risbjerg Thomsen, Politics,Cculture andSself ; East Asian and North
European Attitudes , Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2006.
Peter G. Hershock, Roger T. Ames, eds.,Confucian Cultures of Authority, Albany, State Univ.
of New York, 2006.
Michael B. Hinner, Chinese and Western Business Culture: a Comparison and Contrast,
Frankfurt – NY., Peter Lang, 2006.
Keith Jackson, Miyuki Tomioka, The Changing Face of Japanese Management, Routledge,
London - New York 2004.
Kwang-sae Lee, East and West: Fusion of Horizons, Home and Sakey, 2005.
Li Shijun, Yang Xianju and Qin Jiarui, "Sun Wu's Art of War" and the Art of Business
Management, Graham Brash, Singapore 1994.
Robert M. March, Su-hwa Wu, The Chinese Negotiator : How to Succeed in the World's
Largest Market, Tokyo - New York : Kodansha International, 2007.
Hazel R. Markus, Shinobu Kitayama, Culture, Self, and the Reality of the Social,
“Psychological Inquiry”, vol. 14, no. 3&4, 2003, 277-283 (available pdf)
Boye Lafayette de Mente, The Chinese Mind: Understanding Traditional Chinese Beliefs and
their Influence on Contemporary Culture, Tuttle Publ. 2009.
--------------, Chinese Etiquette & Ethics in Business, Boston, Mass.,McGraw-Hill, 2004.
--------------, Japanese Etiquette and Ethics in Business , Lincolnwood : NTC Business Books,
--------------, Korean Business Etiquette : the Cultural Values and Attitudes that Make Up the
Korean Business Personality, Boston, Mass.: Tuttle Pub., 2004
Robert T. Moran, Philip R. Harris, Sarah V. Moran, Cultural Differences, Eighth Edition:
Global Leadership Strategies for Cross-Cultural Business Success, N.Y. 2010.
Philippe Nemo, What is the West?, Daquesne Univ. Press, 2005.
Edwin Reischauer, The Japanese, Cambridge, Mass., The Belknap Press, 1977.
Mari Sako, Hiroki Sato, eds., Japanese Labour and Management in Transition : Diversity,
Flexibility and Participation, Routledge, New York, N.Y. 1997.
Scott D. Seligman, Chinese Business Etiquette: A Guide to Protocol, Manners, and Culture in
the Peoples Republic of China, New York – Boston, Warner Business Books, 1999.
Richard H. Solomon, Chinese Negotiating Behavior: Pursuing Interests through ‘Old
Friends’, US Institute of Peace, 1999.
Jackson J. Spielvogel, Western Civilization, Wadsworth Publ., 2005, vol. 1-2.
Yoshio Sugimoto, An Introduction to Japanese Society, Cambridge University Press, 1998 (in
particular Chapter 10)..
Jie Tang and Anthony Ward , The Changing Face of Chinese Management ,Routledge,
London - New York 2003