Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
Loubna El Amine, Classical Confucian Political Thought: A New Interpretation, Princeton University Press, 2015, 218pp., $39.95 (hbk), ISBN 9780691163048.
Reviewed by Eric L. Hutton, University of Utah
This book’s subtitle, A New Interpretation, provides a convenient starting point for discussing its aims, methods, strengths and weaknesses. The interpretation offered aims to be new not merely in the sense that it argues for a view that previously has not (or not much) been defended by other scholars, but moreover and especially in that it aims to challenge claims made by other scholars. So described, the book might sound like it is primarily for specialists in ancient Chinese thought, and while Loubna El Amine never identifies her target audience very clearly, at points she also provides basic background information that would allow non-specialists to follow along. The book is thus potentially of interest to non-specialists as well, such as Western political philosophers and theorists who know little about Confucian political thought and want a compact and accessible discussion of Confucianism that speaks to their interests. This review will focus on those aspects in which the book addresses a specialist audience, but my discussion is equally for the benefit of non-specialists. As will become apparent from the reservations I express below, the value of the book for non-specialists needs to be carefully qualified, in a way to be explained at the end.