Benevolent Authority Systems of Social Organization

Published: 2010. Contact: James Liu


One of the more hallowed precepts of social science is that top-down authority is an unnecessary evil.

Anglo-American political traditions are particularly grounded in a history of struggle against arbitrary power, the most celebrated among which was the battle against Hitler and Nazism. This led to the formulation of authoritarianism as a source of prejudice authored by difficult living conditions.

An alternative reading of history views authoritarianism as a necessary means to the ends of stable and effective governance. A major challenge of the 21st century is how to integrate China into the family of nations in a non-violent way given its illiberal, but not totalitarian, practices.

The approach taken with this research is to decompose authoritary-based systems into specific ideas and practices within the domains of family, business, and government.

In each of these domains, there are Chinese traditions that have been used for thousands of years that are now being fused with Western ideas and practices that can be examined for efficacy and benevolence.


Surveys of families, citizens and organizations on the interaction between Chinese psychology measures such as:

  • fulfillment of role-based duties and obligations
  • measures of filial piety
  • paternalistic leadership
  • perceptions of the benevolence of authority in government are combined with Western measures of social identity
  • subjective well-being and quality of life to generate a global psychology of interactions between top-down authority-based control and bottom-up individual autonomy in social organization.


New collaborative international research is required across cultures, spanning the areas of political, organizational, and developmental psychology.

You can order the book "Chinese social identity and inter-group relations: the influence of benevolent authority" here