In what way is confucianism linked to public service motivation?

Lock Betty YUNG

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


According to Oxford Dictionaries, the word „public‟ may mean „of or concerning the people as a whole” (being people-centred) or „of or provided by the state rather than an independent, commercial company‟ (being state or government-centred). Scholars focus on different senses of the word „Public‟ when defining Public Service Motivation (PSM), with some emphasizing motives grounded uniquely in public institutions (being state or government-centred), while others highlighting the motivation to serve the interest of the people (being people-centred). Confucian political philosophy outlines how those in public offices, whether as a ruler or as an official, should act. In Confucian tradition, “[t]he good official is above all other things, a moral actor in the context of moral action….all public officials are understood to be moral actors…[a] Confucian official…is benevolent (disposed to do good) and has extensive love of the people; and will be absolutely courageous in facing a corrupt ruler” (Frederickson 2002, p.616). In short, a good official working for the state (state or government-centred) should act out of the concern for the people (people-centred), with the two senses of the word „public‟ converging in an official‟s work motivations in a prescriptive way, according to Confucianism.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


Yung, B. (2012, February). In what way is confucianism linked to public service motivation?. Paper presented at the Asian Association for Public Administration (AAPA) 3rd Annual Conference Administrative Innovation and Reform: Local culture and traditions, international learning and influence, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong, China.


  • Public service motivation
  • Confucianism
  • Scholar-official
  • Ruler


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