Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Individual and Community in Eastern and Western Thought: A Power-Ethics Dilemma

Dr. Mikhail A. Molchanov.

Political power can be justified on the basis of either individualist or communitarian ethics. The two traditions have influenced political thought throughout history. This paper looks at the problem of governance, as reflected upon in the ancient Asian sources, Christian tradition, and the French Enlightenment literature. I find that communitarianism was well established in the ancient Asia. This line of thought importantly differs from the individualist Western paradigm. I argue that certain ideas, originally articulated in the Christian canon, could be developed further to bridge the gap between individual and society, thus helping to overcome alienation, political sectarianism and ethnocentrism.

I conclude with a critique of elitism and mechanistic rationalism of the Enlightenment thinkers. Rationalistic engineering of human happiness, based on the idea of power-knowledge, places an uncalled-for burden on the human facility of reasoning. This in turn leads to the unwarranted reliance on rationalistically calculated models of development, whose uncritical acceptance and implementation results in catastrophic outcomes. Rational individualism undermines democracy, which becomes usurped by people claiming special access to a privileged knowledge. It is argued that communitarian tradition of classic Asian philosophy and the apostolic Christianity preserved the ethical side of the power-ethics dyad better than the tradition of rational individualism.


Dr. Mikhail A. Molchanov  (Canada)
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science
St. Thomas University

Dr. Mikhail A. Molchanov was born in Ukraine (former Soviet Union) in 1961. He graduated from Kiev State University in 1982 and gained Ph.D. in Social Philosophy from the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in 1989. He also carries MSc in Public Administration (NYU, 1993) and PhD in Political Science (Alberta, 1998). His doctoral dissertation was a study of nationalism after communism. A specialist in Russian and post-Soviet politics, Dr. Molchanov has been involved in advanced research in Ukraine, Canada, Japan, and the USA. His affiliation with the Soviet Academy of Sciences (1986-91) has resulted in numerous publications in Ukraine and Russia. Dr. Molchanov has published 5 books, including Political Culture and National Identity in Russian-Ukrainian Relations and Ukrainian Foreign and Security Policy He has been lecturing at various universities in Ukraine since 1982 and Canada since 1994. In 1997-98, he was affiliated with the United Nations University, Institute of Advanced Studies in Tokyo. In 1998, he directed a research project for the United States Institute of Peace. A NATO-EAPC Fellow in 2001-2003, Dr. Molchanov currently teaches at St. Thomas University in Canada.

  • Political ethics
  • Governance
  • Authority
  • Individual
  • Community
  • Asian philosophy
  • Christianity
Person as Subject
  • Mo Tzu Lao Tzu Chuang Tzu Confucius Plato Aristotle St. Augustine Helvetius d’Holbach, Baron

(Virtual Presentation, English)