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Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West Paperback – March 28, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679777601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679777601
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Despite setbacks, the economic "miracles" achieved by many Asian countries in the latter 20th century have been impressive. This entertaining and thoughtful book invites the reader to consider East Asia's other miracle: its dramatically low rates of crime, divorce, drug abuse, and other social ills. T.R. Reid, an NPR commentator and former Tokyo bureau chief for the Washington Post, lived in Japan for five years, and he draws on this experience to show how the countries of East Asia have built modern industrial societies characterized by the safest streets, the best schools, and the most stable families in the world.

Reid credits Asia's success to the ethical values of Chinese philosopher Confucius, born in 551 B.C., who taught the value of harmony and the importance of treating others decently. This is not a new perception--Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and others have rather heavy-handedly invoked it to claim moral superiority over the West--but the author's vivid anecdotes strengthen its relevance. Public messages constantly remind Asian citizens of their responsibilities to society. To enhance a sense of belonging, civic ceremonies encourage individuals' allegiance to a greater good; across Japan, for example, April 1 is Nyu-Sha-Shiki day, when corporations officially welcome new employees, most of whom remain loyal to their company for life. Citing Malaysia's ideas of a "reverse Peace Corps," Reid sees a case for Asians coming to teach the West in the same way that Westerners have evangelized in Asia for over four centuries. --John Stevenson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In this breezy homily, Reid, an NPR commentator who was the Washington Post's Tokyo bureau chief for five years, offers a look at what he calls Asia's "social miracle" (as opposed to its once vaunted economic growth). The nations of East Asia, he reports, have "the safest streets, the strongest families, and the best schools in the world." Along with their enviably low rates of crime, divorce, unwed motherhood and vandalism, countries like Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand boast a burgeoning middle class, a general aura of civility and a more egalitarian distribution of wealth than the U.S. enjoys. Like many other Asia watchers, Reid attributes this social cohesiveness to a shared set of core values?discipline, loyalty, hard work, a focus on education, group harmony, etc.?that he traces back to the Confucian classics. Yet Reid, now the Post's London bureau chief, readily admits that the East Asian model of Confucian prosperity has glaring flaws: most cities he visited were drab and ugly; Singapore is a "self-righteous and thoroughly intolerant place controlled by a small clique." Reid, who transplanted his family of five from a small Colorado town to Tokyo, serves up amusing anecdotes and cross-cultural observations (his two daughters enrolled in a Japanese public school), but his report reads like one long radio spiel and covers well-trod terrain. After gently berating Westerners for more than 200 pages, he gets to eat his rice cake and have it, too: Confucian values and our own Judeo-Christian morality, he concludes, are basically the same, differing mainly in nuance. Author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

T. R. Reid is a longtime correspondent for The Washington Post and former chief of its Tokyo and London bureaus as well as a commentator for National Public Radio. His books include The United States of Europe, The Chip, and Confucius Lives Next Door.

Customer Reviews

And that is a good enough reason to read and enjoy this book.
Craig Matteson
So though Reid says that Asia is unified in Confucian thought, most Asian nations in general have no real interest in one another in unity or in thought.
If that sounds overly simplistic, it is because it is; and inherently that is the problem with the book.
B. M. Chapman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on April 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a mostly entertaining and enlightening study from Reid, a foreign correspondent who has lived in Japan and traveled throughout Asia. Reid's concern is not the economic success of East Asia, but what he calls the "social miracle." This would be the great civility, politeness, high educational standards, low crime, and all-around successful social stability of Eastern Asian nations. Reid cites the deep cultural influences of Confucianism as the key to this success. Examples are the Confucian ideals of community, shame, and encouragement, which all contrast directly with the Western ideals of individuality, guilt, and punishment. Reid delivers these revelations in a very enlightening fashion and his writing is quite enjoyable, especially when talking about his Tokyo neighbor, the immensely polite and courteous Matsuda-san. However, Reid also learns that the most basic Confucian tenets of hard work and virtue are also core Western tenets, and that the West would be greatly improved by a return to those values. The main problem here is Reid's quite superficial interpretations of both Eastern and Western societies - he often talks like a sociologist but clearly isn't. In Japan especially, Reid probably saw mostly the politeness that the natives save for visitors, with little or no direct experience of real social problems. The book ends with very flimsy solutions, mostly concerning abstract concepts like morality, for the West to integrate Eastern concepts to everyone's social benefit. So beware of these superficialities in this otherwise enjoyable study of cultures that are both vastly different, but more alike than you might think.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By kimmykat on December 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
The author seems to have done little investigation into all of the forces at work in Japanese society. He simply regurgitates the Nihonjinron stereotypes that make discourse on Japan all the more difficult.

Low crime? Sure. On the other hand did he once mention the abhorrent practices of police brutality, forced confessions, broken kneecaps and busted skulls, 98% conviction rates, no habeas corpus, fudging of crime statistics and prison conditions that essentially amount to death sentences?

Low divorce rate? Until recently women were not entitled to a dime of their husbands money upon divorce. Now that they are, divorce rates are skyrocketing.

Contrary to what the author claims, Japan is not a homogeneous and harmonious society as any educated sociologist specializing in Japan knows. There are very distinct regional cultures, generational differences and dialects which greatly influence people's eating habits, language, thought patterns, housing styles, culturally influenced behavior etc...

There are great income and educational disparities. Minority, ethnic and gender issues DO exist however they often do not receive the attention from the media that they might elsewhere. One reason may be that Japan's freedom of the press is very low in comparison with other developed nations and groups fighting hard battles for recognition and rights are too often swept under the rug and ignored.

Any half-educated economist could tell you the real ECONOMIC factors that were behind Japan's boom and why it was not based upon Confucianism and "Asian Values". Lifetime employment is dying because companies found out the hard way that it does not work. There have been massive layoffs and a growing unemployment rate.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By B. M. Chapman on May 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is one of those books that is hard to review, particularly in terms of stars. To me it teeters on the edge of three stars to four. Three seems harsh, but in ways appropriate.
In "Confucius Lives Next Door" T.R. Reid attempts to expose and explain East Asia's 'second miracle'. The first miracle being the enormous economic gains of the last half-century that started in Japan and now encompass most of the Pacific side of that continent. The second miracle, in Reid's view, is the social stability, low crime rate, and overall quality of life that can be found throughout East Asia. Boiling a complex issue that spans billions of people, thousands of years, dozens of languages and scores of cultures, he concludes that Confucius is to blame.
If that sounds overly simplistic, it is because it is; and inherently that is the problem with the book. Once again here we have a person trying to explain another culture(s) in simplistic historical solutions that fit many and divergent facets of a large swath of people.
Yet, in certain ways Reid is on to something. Just as Western thinking finds its philosophical underpinnings in the influence of Plato, with a liberal sprinkling of hundreds of thinkers along the way, Asia -- particularly countries historically influenced by China -- owe the core of their philosophical and social thinking to good old Confucius, with a liberal sprinkling of hundreds along the way. That much is good. Reid had me at the Plato-Confucius comparison, and his chapter about the life of Confucius was educational. Most of his ideas appear to have been instigated by conversations with his next-door neighbor, Mr. Matsuda, who seems to be the wizened neighbor we all wish we had. But in this book I fear Reid has ordered more lemon chicken than he can eat in one sitting.
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