Unethicality that makes me worse off: Characterizing xiaoren (小人) in workplaces

Xiaoren, often translated as small, petty, mean, inferior, or bestial persons, is a core part of the Chinese ethical vocabularies for moral condemnation. The term of xiaoren has its cultural root in Confucian virtue ethics and is mostly considered as a perfect antithesis to ethicality in Confucian doctrines. Its high severity is evident as the term of xiaoren is often used interchangeably with other ethical vocabularies associated with disqualifying a human being from personhood (e.g., beasts [禽獸], nonperson [非人]).
This presentation will be organized in two parts. First, I’ll position and explain the role of xiaoren in Confucian virtue ethics. I argue that studying xiaoren could open a window into the Confucian personhood and the minimum ethical standards in Confucian virtue ethics. Second, I’ll present empirical and preliminary evidence about the contemporary understandings of xiaoren in workplaces. Via a qualitative research on workplace xiaoren narratives, I identify the relevance and insufficiency of Confucian unethicality in characterizing workplaces xiaoren.
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