Japanese Journal of Political Science

Authority Orientations and Democratic Attitudes: A Test of the ‘Asian Values’ Hypothesis 1

a1 Center for the Study of Democracy, 3151 Social Science Plaza, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-5100

Article author query
dalton rj   [Google Scholar] 
ong nt   [Google Scholar] 


The Singaporean patriarch Lee Kuan Yew popularized the argument that ‘Asian values’ derived from Confucian cultural traditions are inconsistent with the development of democracy in East Asia. There is an active scholarly debate over whether the hierarchic and deferential social authority relations of Confucian traditions are incompatible with support for democracy. Drawing upon the newest wave of the World Values Survey, we analyze public opinion in six East Asian nations and four Western democracies. We first assess orientations toward authority, and then link these sentiments to support for democracy. The results contradict the core tenets of the ‘culture is destiny’ argument in the Asian values literature, and offer a more positive view of the prospects for political development in the region.

(Published Online August 2 2005)


1 A previous version of this paper was presented at the 2003 annual meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, IL. The first author would like to thank the POSCO Fellowship program at the East–West Center in Hawaii for their support of this project, especially Dr Choong Nam Kim. Our thanks to Robert Albritton, Thomas Bernstein, Yun-han Chu, Dorothy Solinger, Tianjin Shi, Doh Chull Shin, and the panelists at the MPSA meetings for their suggestions on this paper.