Bell, Daniel A.
Bell, Daniel A.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Lexington Books, 4501 Forbes Blvd., Ste. 200, Lanham, MD 20706.
CAREER: National University of Singapore, Singapore, China, teacher of political theory for three years; Princeton University, Center for Human Values, Princeton, NJ, Laurance S. Rockefeller visiting fellow, 1994–95; City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China, senior lecturer in public and social administration, 1996–. Teacher at National University of Singapore.
Communitarianism and Its Critics, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1993.
(With others) Towards Illiberal Democracy in Pacific Asia, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995.
East Meets West: Human Rights and Democracy in East Asia, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2000.
(Editor, with Avner de-Shalit) Forms of Justice: Critical Perspectives on David Miller's Political Philosophy, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 2003.
(Editor, with Hahm Chaibong) Confucianism for the Modern World, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2003.
(Editor, with Chaihard Hahm) The Politics of Affective Relations: East Asia and Beyond, Lexington Books (Lanham, MD), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Daniel A. Bell has studied many aspects of the political situation in Asia in his books, including Towards Illiberal Democracy in Pacific Asia, The East Asian Challenge for Human Rights, and East Meets West: Human Rights and Democracy in East Asia. Towards Illiberal Democracy in Pacific Asia, which was a collaborative effort, emerged from the author's three-year teaching stint at the National University of Singapore. The book illustrates the difficulties that arise in trying to translate Western democracy to Eastern cultures. The hierarchical worldview common to Asians discourages the pursuit of equality, and freedom, at least in the sense it is frequently understood by Westerners, clashes with the strongly held Eastern values surrounding family ties. Those Asian countries that have promoted democracy have generally done so because they hope to create a more stable environment; their motivation has not been the promotion of individual freedom. Modern economic trends do not nurture democracy in the way Western liberals may hope because state power in Asia prevents it.
Ross Marlay, a reviewer for American Political Science Review, found Towards Illiberal Democracy in Pacific Asia flawed but still valuable. "Bell and his coauthors make the point that Western democracy evolved out of a set of specific economic, cultural, and social circumstances that simply do not obtain in Asia," the critic wrote. "We can grant that point without accepting their contention that Asians are uninterested in freedom or their conclusion that for the foreseeable future Asian countries will at best be 'illiberal democracies." Lee Feigon, reviewing the book in Political Science Quarterly, called it "timely" and praised the authors' "justified and long-overdue attack on the simplistic notion that economic development somehow leads inevitably to liberal democracy."
The East Asian Challenge for Human Rights came in for some criticism by John F. Copper, who in Asian Affairs stated that the book glosses over some of the serious violations of human rights that have taken place in Asia over the past decades. Notorious human-rights violators such as Mao Zedong and Pol Pot are left out of the book altogether, making this analysis one that will "appeal to readers looking for long-range, discipline-linked explanations for good and bad human rights practices or situations." It will hold less value for those "seeking moral conclusions about regimes or individuals," concluded Copper. Yet Lloyd Steffen, a contributor to Ethics, hailed The East Asian Challenge for Human Rights as an "important, superbly edited volume" and recommended it as "an indispensable guide to the human rights controversy in East Asia."
An enthusiastic endorsement for East Meets West came from Franklin J. Woo in China Review International. He praised this book for offering "an insightful account of intercultural interaction and understanding," which is presented in the form of three fictional dialogs between an American working for human rights and democracy and three Asians: a political philosopher, a traditionalist, and a human-rights activist. "Through these imaginary conversations," stated Woo, "Bell gives the reader vivid and unforgettable views on human rights and democracy as embodied in people with Asian values. Although the book reads like a novel, the author documents every view expressed with extensive footnotes, comments, and further references as supportive empirical evidence." The dialogue format also met with approval from Jerry Burke, who in Philosophy East and West called Bell's book "extremely rich" fare that underlines the need for greater cross-cultural dialogue, so that Westerners can realize the fallacy of assuming that every society aspires to a democracy styled after the Western ideal.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Political Science Review, September, 1996, Ross Marlay, review of Towards Illiberal Democracy in Pacific Asia, p. 666.
Asian Affairs, fall, 1999, John F. Copper, review of The East Asian Challenge for Human Rights, p. 174.
China Review International, fall, 2000, Randall Peerenboom, review of Human Rights and Asia Values: The Limits of Universalism, p. 295; spring, 2001, Franklin J. Woo, review of East Meets West: Human Rights and Democracy in East Asia, p. 69.
Contemporary Southeast Asia, December, 1999, Asad Latif, review of The East Asian Challenge for Human Rights, p. 475.
Ethics, July, 2001, Lloyd Steffen, review of The East Asian Challenge for Human Rights, p. 791.
Philosophy East and West, April, 2002, Jerry Burke, review of East Meets West, p. 265.
Political Science Quarterly, summer, 1997, Lee Feigon, review of Towards Illiberal Democracy in Pacific Asia, p. 360.