East and West: Different geography of thinking and implications on actual problems of today´s world
Milan Lajčiak
23.11.2016, 13:46

УДК 327:94

JEL Classification: JEL Z19


Хоча сьогодні глобалізація усуває та розмиває відмінності між культурами в різних регіонах світу, відмінності в схильностях і перевагах у мисленні між Сходом і Заходом, культурні особливості та різні ієрархії цінностей, що історично склалися, нині грають важливу роль у підходах до вирішення актуальних проблем.

Специфіка сприйняття світу, ставлення до навколишнього середовища, організація людських відносин, роль соціально-економічних аспектів та модель управління державними справами, прийнята сьогодні на Сході та Заході, настільки відчутна, що ми можемо говорити про різні географії думки.

Це стає особливо помітним при зіставленні західної культури з поглядами суспільства конфуціанської Східної Азії, що відображається не тільки на окремих позиціях, а й у системних підходах, які є свого роду формою ідентифікації колективної свідомості цих культур.

У деяких випадках ці підходи і сприйняття є суперечливими і можуть бути співставлені з допомогою методу "проти", що включає в себе такі антгоністські пари понять: індивідуальність і суспільство, цілісність і редукціоністські рішення, громадський порядок і громадський спротив, обов'язки і права, прагматизм і онтологічні переконання, конфліктуюче і доповнююче один одного сприйняття світу та інше.

Дана стаття має на меті зробити свій внесок у розуміння цих конфліктуючих концепцій і допомогти у створенні моста взаєморозуміння між двома цивілізаційними сферами.
Ключові слова: конфуціанство, інкубатори західної і східної думки, ключові концепції взаємодії, "шукачі істини", "шлях шукачів", "людина етико-політична", "людина духовно-релігійна", схеми управління, наслідки для сучасного світу.

Part II

5. Implications for the problems of today´s world

5.1 Social progress implications (harmony versus revolt)

There is different tradition of emphasis on the phenomenon of freedom and harmony between East and West, which has an impact on the stability of society and the processes of social movements.

Revolutions are a kind of anti-thesis of harmony.[1] They replace the old world with new orders and new elites.

The West has passed its history by a number of painful revolutionary social changes that destroyed the old social order, and brought new progress. In the West there is a tradition of thought that a harmonized conflict relations and forces represents a development of specific risk because it limits the creation of new things and overall social progress.

Confucian culture in contrast to the Western concept are focusing on harmonious order of society, preferring stability to social changes, which represents the core of their social interests. History of Confucian countries shows that Confucian societies, while have experienced wars and uprisings, they rarely went through revolutionary system changes of the society. The system was strongly conserved through mechanism of harmonized relationships that allowed hardly any social movement in terms of removing the old system and its replacement by a new structure of social relations.

In terms of socio-economic values the West has gradually transferred to the building their societies "based on law", while the East maintained formal Confucian values with social management basically "based on relationships." [2]

Eastern societies created a vertical structure of governance with emphasis on the obligations of individuals, while Western societies, on the other hand, started at a certain stage of their social development to promote horizontal equality of individuals with emphasis on the protection of individual rights, including economic ones.

These concepts significantly determined the choice of governmental mechanisms, tools of maintain social stability, but also forms of economic development, the formation and evolution of the market, the cost of doing business and a number of important developmental phenomena, such as the role of civil society, the factor of trust, the size of business units, preferences for basic or applied research, the transfer of scientific knowledge and the like.

5.2 Business culture implications (formalism versus straightforwardness)

Signs of Confucian culture in business interactions are so wide that this issue should be given separate studies. For illustration, it should be noted, at least some signs of Confucian values in the wider context of life of the South Korean society, which is a typical example of practical reflections of Confucianism in modern business environment.

The most important factor in the management of the South Korean society for all its members is sharing the same values. To support this goal the large and medium Korean companies organize for their employees training camps including education for discipline and loyalty.

In all areas of society, including the business community, there is strong hierarchy, austere formalism, career advancement is possible only with increased age, people´s interaction avoids showing directly negative attitudes, strict subordination is at every social level and in most cases the responsibility is associated with collective decisions.

Korean business culture differs from Western business approaches from the first moment of interaction. Koreans tend to identify themselves as members of the group and from the very beginning they show efforts to find points of contact (kinship, school, hometown, college). They construct their identity typically in relation to people with whom they have close ties, and tend to worry when they feel isolated. This is in stark contrast to Western businessmen for whom individuality plays a high role in constructing their identity.[3]

The pride is often a question of people´s own perception, but with "saving face" in the Confucian concept is all about how others perceive that person. There is probably no person in the world who would not attempt to protect his/her pride, but Koreans consider the pride and preserving their face as extremely important.[4] In this respect they keep a certain social distance also in the business interaction, a typical feature of Confucian business culture that the West sometimes confuses with the coldness of the person.

One of distinctive traits of Koreans is their ability to unite and bring private sacrifices to the benefit of the country. Korean vitality of unity and of the joint work is unique when being compared to many advanced nations that favor individualism and this kind of cohesion is reflected especially in times of crisis. Koreans, for example, were able to carry out individual collections of gold to help the country to pay off debt and redeem the restrictive measures of the IMF in the year 1988. Employees of companies in case of company´s financial difficulties even return their salaries to contribute to the revitalization of the company. In such cases, the Koreans put the state/country to the level of their family and they perceive it as a common goal. This is a very different professional and business approach compared to Western companies.

Ambitions for education are particularly strongly rooted in the mentality of the South Koreans and the level of competitiveness for better social status through education has achieved enormous scale. Even the parents of their children compete over which of them gets on better schools. Children are under social pressure forced constantly learning even during their leisure time. The most widespread complaints of Korean children is the lack of sleep. Expensive private tutoring of children in order to excel over others are taken even late at night. Children are literally exhausted. The pressure of expectations of good study results is so great that in case of student´s failure of admission to the university, it is not uncommon for students to go for suicide. <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">South Korea</st1:place></st1:country-region> is the country with the highest suicide rate in the world (more than 14,500 per year).

5.3 Global affairs implications (clash versus coexistence of civilizations)

In 1993, an essay entitled "Clash of Civilizations?" was published on the summer issue of "Foreign Affairs", <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">USA</st1:place></st1:country-region>, by Samuel Hungtington and in 1996 the book "The Clash of Civilizations and Remaking of World Order". Hungtington´s hypothesis is that the fundamental source of conflict in the new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.[5] This theory was discussed and criticized in all aspects by many scholars.

Hungtigton´s observation is insightful in certain cases, such as Palestinian - Israel conflict, Kosovo conflict or even the Iraqi War a Syria War, where some cultural (religious and ethical) elements catalyzed the outburst of wars, though we should see in these wars also a contest for the strategies of power politics. Hungtington´s hypothesis reflects to certain extent also today´s reality of growing tension between the Western and Muslim worlds in the form of the war against the extreme/radical interpretation of Islam (ISIS) and in the form of mutually growing anti-sentiments in both parts of these cultures while calling into question compatibility of values between them.

Human history has recorded enough cases of clashes caused by cultural or religious differences among states, nations, or regions. On the other hand, we witness a lot of geopolitical battles and economic competition around the globe. Nevertheless, in view of the general tendency of history, we find that the development of civilizations among different states, nations, and regions, should be dominated by mutual absorption and convergence.

Clash of civilizations theory is reflecting some trends in today´s world but hardly can fit the present global situation, nor will it be the future perspective of mankind. Instead, the "coexistence of civilizations" should be the only oulet for human society and future goal we should strive for.

Perhaps, a clearer picture of our age may be built on the idea of the "New Axial Age" (pivotal age), proposed by German philosopher Karl Jaspers (1883 - 1969). According to his theory, around 500 B.C., great thinkers appealed almost simultaneously in Ancient Greece, <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Israel</st1:place></st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">India</st1:place></st1:country-region>, and <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">China</st1:place></st1:country-region>, and they contributed their original ideas to the solution of the problems which are of great concern to humankind. Distinctive cultures were then formed which, after more than 2000 years of progress, have become the principle part of human intellectual wealth. Until today mankind has lived by what happened during the Axial Period, by what was thought and created during that period. [6]

Judging from certain evidences we may draw this conclusion that in a certain sense, the current development of world multiculturalism might become a new leap forward. Now, we have entered the Information Age when a great leap forward in human society is just happening. Because of the economic globalization, integration of science and technology and progress of information network, different regions all over the world are tightly connected, and local cultural progress could no longer be independent as they once were in the Axial Age 2000 years ago. Instead, they will be developed in the midst of discords, conflicts, and through mutual influences or mutual absorptions. [7]

At present, human society is standing on a historic turning point and every nation or country should seriously reexamine its own culture in the historic perspective. The cultural tradition is a reality de facto for every nation or state, especially for those nations and states with a long history. Cultural tradition has crucial influence on contemporary human society, for it is deeply rooted in the hearts of its people, forming a spiritual prop of this particular nation or state.

Perhaps the twenty-first century would be dominated by four principle cultural systems: Euro-American, East Asian, South Asian, Islamic. Each of the four cultures has a long tradition and a population of over a billion. Different cultural traditions would subsist in this New Axial Age, each with a population too large to be eliminated and thus in the long run, the coexistence of civilizations is predictable.

To achieve this goal we must have some self-knowledge. The self-understanding of each culture is undoubtedly limited and the cross - cultural studies are necessary to provide us with a more comprehensive view of our own culture.


Historical and linguistic factors have caused that the Chinese culture, which originated Confucian system of governance, was one of the most poorly understood and sometimes even completely misunderstood cultures in the West. There is still a lack of public awareness in some Western countries about the Confucian system as well as about implications of the Confucian thinking inclinations in today´s world. These issues belong to a group of important social topics that become more apparent in the process of globalization, and that are reflected in positions on international relations, on basic aspects of governance and on perceptions of democracy and attributes of individual rights and freedoms.

The comparison of systematic values between East and West is facing a number of problems of inter-cultural communication including the articulation of the terms and concepts that have no equivalent in another culture. This comparison process, however, enriches our world view with new dimensions and promotes the necessary knowledge how qualitatively relevant and important is to perceive the contrasting issues between East and West for solving actual problems of today´s world. The comparison of systematic values of different cultures at the same time teaches us a deeper understanding that the long-rooted inclinations of thought are an essential form of cultural identification that, despite today's modernization and globalization trends, are able only to a slow change.

Usability of this approach is of particular importance when addressing global challenges, where East and West need each other, in the inter-regional relationships where both parties need to perceive the background of the other, and above all in the knowledge that the world is not flat but varied, diversified and that, in building our modern societies, we can mutually learn from each other on the millennia accumulated wisdom and experience. In addressing today's actual problems, this knowledge is even more important, because it is forcing the partners to a deeper perception of different properties and thus to a greater respect while seeking realistic approach acceptable to both sides.


1. Zhihe Wang: Process and Pluralism, Chinese Thought on the Harmony and Diversity.

2. Yijie Tang: Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity and Chinese Culture. Foreign Language Teaching and Research Publishing Co, 2015.

3. Y.J.Choi: East and West: Man versus Spirit. Copyright 2015 by Y.J.Choi, ISBN: 1512132624,

4. Y.J.Choi: East and West: Confucianism and Christianity. Copyright 2015 by Y.J.Choi, ISBN: 1512323039.

5. Tai P. Ng, Ph.D: Chinese Culture, Western Culture. Copyright 2015 by Tai P. Ng, ISBN: 13: 978-0-595-42547-1 (pbk).

6. Prof. Seoil Chaiy: Doing Business with Koreans. Published by Okdang Books, 2012.

7. Shaomin Li: "Together or Separate Checks?". Published by the Center for Modern <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">China</st1:place></st1:country-region> Foundation 2015.

8. Karl Jaspers: The Origin and Goal of History, New Haven, Yale, University Press 1953, p. 7

9. Samuel P. Hungtington: "Clash of civilizations?", in "Foriegn Affairs", summer, 1993

10. Samuel P. Hungtington: The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order, New York, 1996

11. Bertrand Russel: "Chinese and Western Civilization Contrasted, in "The Problem of China", London, 1922



Хотя в настоящее время глобализация устраняет и размывает различия между культурами в различных регионах мира, различия в наклонностях и предпочтениях в мышлении между Востоком и Западом, исторически сложившиеся культурные особенности и различные иерархии ценностей играют важную роль в подходе к решению актуальных проблем в наше время.

Особенности специфики восприятия мира, отношение к окружающей среде, организация человеческих отношений, роль социально-экономических аспектов и модель управления государственными делами, принятая сегодня на Востоке и Западе, настолько ошутимы, что мы можем говорить о различных географиях мысли.

Это становится особенно заметным при сопоставлении западной культуры со взглядами общества конфуцианской Восточной Азии, что отражается не только на отдельных позициях, но и в системных подходах, которые являются своего рода формой идентификации коллективного сознания этих культур.

В некоторых случаях эти подходы и восприятия противоречивы и могут быть сопоставлены с помощью метода "против", что включает в себя такие антагонистические пары понятий: индивидуальность и общество, целостность и редукционистские решения, общественный порядок и гражданское сопротивление, обязанности и права, прагматизм и онтологические убеждения, конфликтующее и дополняющее друг друга восприятие мира и др.

Данная статья стремится внести свой вклад в понимание этих конфликтующих концепций и помочь в создании моста взаимопонимания между двумя цивилизационными сферами.
Ключевые слова: конфуцианство, инкубаторы западной и восточной мысли, ключевые концепции взаимодействия, "искатели истины", "путь искателей", "человек этико-политический", "человек духовно-религиозный", схемы управления, последствия для современного мира

Although the current globalization eliminates and blurs the differences between cultures in different regions of the world, different inclinations and preferences in thinking between East and West, historically grounded cultural specificities and different hierarchy of values ​​play an important role in the approach to solving current problems of our time. Differences in perception of the world in relation to its surroundings, organization of human relations, emphasis on socio-economic aspects and models of management of public affairs are between East and West so great that we can talk about different geography of thought. This is particularly the comparison of Western culture and Confucian East Asian societies. It is reflected not only at the individual positions, but at system approaches that are a kind of form of identification of the collective consciousness of these cultures. In some cases these approaches and perception are contradictory and can be compared by the methods of "versus". It includes topics such as individuality versus community, holistic versus reductionist solutions, social order versus revolt, responsibilities versus rights, pragmatism versus ontological beliefs, conflicting versus complementary perception of the world and other concepts. The work seeks to contribute to the understanding of these divergent concepts and help bridging model approaches between the two spheres of civilization.

Keywords: Confucianism, incubators of Western and Eastern thought, key concepts of interaction, "Truth seekers", "Way seekers", "Homo Ethico-Politicus", "Homo Spiritus-Religiosus", governance schemes, implications for today's world

[1] Wayne Cristaudo, Heung Wab Wong, Sun Youzhong: Order and revolt, p. 7

[2] Shaomin Li: "Together or Separate Checks?" Why the East and West conduct business in different ways, p.12-13

[3] Prof. Seoil Chaiy: Doing Business with Koreans, p. 21

[4] Prof. Seoil Chaiy: Doing Business with Koreans, p. 56

[5] Samuel P. Hungtington: "Clash of civilizations?", p. 22

[6] Karl Jaspers: The Origin and Goal of History, p. 7

[7] Yijie Tang: Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism, Christianinty and Chinese Culture, p. 297