By Alan T. Wood
Alan T. wooden examines the cultural id of recent China within the context of authoritarianism within the chinese language political culture. taking over problems with key significance within the realizing of chinese language background, wooden leads readers to a reconsideration of neo-Confucian thinkers of the Northern Sung dynasty. glossy students have accused Sung neo-Confucians of advocating a doctrine of unconditional obedience to the ruler--of "revering the emperor and expelling the barbarian"--and thereby inhibiting the increase of democracy in China. wooden refutes this dominant view via arguing that Sung neo-Confucians meant to restrict the ability of the emperor, now not increase it.
Sung political thinkers believed passionately within the life of an ethical cosmos ruled through common legislation that transcended the ruler and will be invoked to set limits on his strength. wooden makes a amazing comparability of this view with an analogous one among common morality or ordinary legislation that built in overdue Medieval Europe. via drawing consciousness to a much-neglected Confucian textual content, he contributes considerably to the broader conversation of human rights in China and brings forth clean philosophical insights in his comparative view of chinese language and Western history.
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Extra resources for Limits to Autocracy: From Sung Neo-Confucianism to a Doctrine of Political Rights
There are a number of developments in the early Sung that, although they did not make the rise of the merchant class inevitable, greatly facilitated it. One of the most important was the decline of the old aristocracy. 66 By the end of the tenth century, it was possible for the emperor to act independently of the great families; officials, even those who were descendants of those families, increasingly owed their position to the discretion of the emperor, not to their pedigree. For their part, the emperors filled the vacuum left by the demise of the aristocracy with a new generation of officials.
The major categories of thought that formed the currency of early Sung intellectual and political speculation grew out of ideas that had already had a long history. There were of course many concepts that underwent changes in definition as they were called on to perform new tasks, but for the most part the children bear a remarkable resemblance to their parents. 33 The same is true of neo-Confucian attitudes toward the ruler. There is a change in emphasis, an elevation of the ruler to a degree of importance that was unprecedented.
21 As the Sung drew to a close, that early confidence had disappeared, no doubt in part because the competition to take the exams had heated up considerably. 24 Military affairs, over which the grand councilors had once exercised authority in the T’ang, were now (following the precedent of the Five Dynasties period) controlled by either the Shu-mi yüan or the emperor himself. The emperor now took an active role in drafting edicts, instead of merely initialing those that had been drawn up by the grand councilors.
Limits to Autocracy: From Sung Neo-Confucianism to a Doctrine of Political Rights by Alan T. Wood