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UBC Theses and Dissertations

On deparochializing democracy : China, the West, and "democracy to come" Li, Kun


With the spread of democratic struggles from Europe and America to other parts of the globe in the past several centuries, some scholars have set out to transcend the Western-centrism of political theory as a discipline and of democratic theory as a subfield. The term “deparochializing” is sometimes used to characterize this effort. Relevant and ongoing debates turn on two salient questions: What does the practice of deparochializing political theory entail? How do insights from comparative political theory inform our approach to democracy? I explore these questions in the context of contemporary democratic struggles in China and through scrutinizing cross-cultural interactions between “Western” and “Chinese” political traditions of thought and practice past and present. I argue that the practice of theorizing “democracy” must focus on understanding, criticizing and re-interpreting the idioms and practices in Chinese politics to prepare the way for democrats to come, as opposed to a focus on institutional arrangements as criteria of evaluation. Second, democratic theory must transcend its prevailing Western-centric and empiricist-scientific conception for it to be relevant and valuable to differently situated and practical democratic problems.

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