Can Asians think? by Kishore Mahbubani

By Kishore Mahbubani

Contrary to the existing view within the West that the 500-year dominance of Western civilization issues to it being the single common civilization, Can Asians Think? argues that different civilizations may perhaps but make equivalent contributions to the improvement and development of mankind. Hailed as “an Asian Toynbee” and “the Max Weber of the recent Confucian ethic”, Mahbubani maintains to light up his vital arguments with new essays during this fourth edition.

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Many would want to credit Europe’s success to purely material factors: its domination of science and technology in the past five centuries. Superior European weapons subdued large Asian masses. But to look at the “hardware” alone, while ignoring the “software” advantages of European societies, would be a mistake. Distilling the wrong lessons may be even worse for Asia than distilling no lessons at all. And learning the right lessons is becoming more crucial as history fast-forwards into the next millennium.

In North America, societies are troubled by the relative breakdown of the family as an institution, the plague of drug addiction and its attendant problems, including crime, the persistence of ghettos and the perception that there has been a decline in ethical standards. This is exemplified by statistics provided by the US government that reflect social trends for the period 1960–90. During that 30-year period, the rate of violent crime quadrupled, single-parent families Can Asians Think? 31 almost tripled, and the number of US state and federal prisoners tripled.

The third principle is “honesty”. This sounds trite, but it is a polite way of drawing attention to one of Asia’s most shameful aspects: corruption. Successful societies have functional elites. They add more value to their societies than they take from it. Unsuccessful societies have corrupt elites. As a result of feudal attitudes, they become easily entrenched, even though they survive as parasites. Corruption exists in both the democratic and nondemocratic societies of Asia (and indeed in other parts of the world).

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