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« The New Legalists: Distorting Chinese History and Chinese Philosophy for Nationalist Ends | Main | Once More Into the Breach: The New Legalists and the Tao Te Ching »

February 28, 2008


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Machiavelli, the great Legalist of Europe, very explicitly made the welfare of the people as a whole the primary goal and legitimacy of The Prince: unity was necessary for the creation of a great Italian republic without outside interference (he wrote a second book, which nobody reads, in defense of the idea) and powerful, effective and amoral leaders were necessary to accomplish this goal.

I don't have my early China stuff at home except for a hoary old Waley (Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China), but he cites Han Feizi on the goal of statecraft as "saving mankind from disorder and averting the calamities that hang over the whole world, preventing the strong from oppressing the weak, the many from tyrannizing over the few, enabling the old and decrepit to round off their days and the young orphan to grow up to manhood, ensuring that frontiers are not violated and that the horrors of slaughter and captivity are avoided." (p. 161; he cites "Han Fei Tzu, 14, p. 60")

It's self-justification at its finest, to be sure, but I could easily see modern nationalists using the neo-fascist (maybe I'm digging myself a hole here, but I think it's fair; though perhaps it would be more proper to refer to fascism as "neo-Legalism"!) aspects of Legalism to justify enhancements of state power, and restrictions on economic activity which they deem unworthy or unhelpful.

Who is “Distorting Chinese History and Chinese Philosophy”: The New Legalists or Prof. Sam Crane, Part III: TRADITIONAL CHINESE CULTURE: AN ORGANIC WHOLE

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