Thursday, March 19, 2015


 p. 143 ...Jie and Zhou were oppressive and chaotic, and Tang and Wu campaigned against them. Now, to have the building up of wood and the boring of wood in the time of the Xia would certainly have made Gun and Yu laugh, and to have the opening of channels in the time of the Yin and Zhou would certainly have made Tang and Wu laugh. As such, to exalt the way of Yao, Shun, Tang, Wu, and Yu in the present age would certainly make the new sages laugh. This is why sages do not try to cultivate the ancient ways and do not model them-selves on constancy.


 In short, both the Shangjun shu and the Han Feizi celebrate their lack of concern with precedent and give free rein to the sage to create anew as necessary. But here, of course, is a major tension. On the one hand, these texts are committed to the claim that circumstances change, and that the ruler must therefore be free to create a completely new order, unre-stricted by past practice or precedent—hence the celebration in these texts of radical innovation on the part of the ruler. But the texts are also committed to the claim that, once this order has been created, the ruler must stop being active and instead practice noninterference. The problem, of course, is that, since times change, the ruler must always be prepared to become active once again and to create anew yet again. Ironically enough, this unresolvable tension may in part explain the appeal of these texts—precisely because it allows the texts to be ap- propriated in different ways by different figures. Ministers would tend to support such texts’ assertions of the need for clear procedures and regulations—and thus for a noninterfering ruler. But in periods of radical transformation rulers would tend to appeal to such texts be-cause of their strong affirmation of the need for a highly active ruler to innovate. In others words, as problematic as this tension was in prac-tice, the tension was also part of the appeal of the texts to political actors with very different concerns.

(having miserably little time to work on those issues deeper. dumping the scraps here)

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