(The following is a preview of Chapter 17 of the recently released The Conscious Resistance Trilogy by Derrick Broze and John Vibes. To read the full chapter pick up a copy of the trilogy!)
In this essay we will explore potential connections between anarchist thought and the Confucian worldview. Confucianism is a school of thought described as a philosophy, a humanist religion, a doctrine, a tradition, or a system of governance, based on the teachings of Chinese philosopher and politician Confucius (alternatively known as Kongfuzi or K’ung-fu-tz). Confucianism emphasizes the importance of the family unit, methods for creating harmony in social relationships, government morality, justice, and kindness. Confucius is also said to have espoused a version of the Golden Rule, “Do not do unto others what you do not want done to yourself”.
Confucianism developed between the 6th to the 2nd century BC, in the period known as the Hundred Schools of Thoughts. After experiencing periods of popularity in China Confucianism was eventually suppressed by the Legalist movement and Qin dynasty. Following the collapse of the Qin dynasty Confucianism gained official support from the new government. The teachings of Confucius have continued to evolve and are sometimes known as Neo-Confucianism or New Confucianism.
As explored in the previous chapter, Taoism has typically been associated with anarchism rather than the often rigid Confucianism. With the history of Confucianism we see a pattern emerge as it has in nearly every religious or spiritual teaching: the original teaching is relatively liberty minded or even anti-authoritarian while later manifestations are supportive of the State or used by the state to encourage obedience.
Despite this pattern there does appear to be a period of Confucian history which supports some Anarchist principles (or at the least, libertarian values of small government). In his essay, Austro-Libertarian Themes in Early Confucianism (later a book, Rituals of Freedom: Libertarian Themes in Early Confucianism), Professor Roderick Long makes the argument that Confucius and his student Mencius (aka Mengzi or Meng-tzu) were actually some of the first libertarians.
“While no school of early Chinese thought is consistently libertarian, the Confucians score higher than any of their rivals, offering many intriguing anticipations of contemporary libertarian ideas,” Long writes. He notes that Confucius recognized that the natural universe maintains order without the need for commands and a wise ruler should do the same. Obviously, the notion of a ruler at all generally goes against anarchist principles yet Confucianism does not advocate blindly following the State.
Instead, Confucian writings are “characterized by unrelenting hostility to governmental abuse of power.” Long notes that Confucian sage Sima Qian complains that the builders of the Great Wall of China were “no different from a bunch of bandits” because the wall was “made free with the strength of the common people.” Mencius is also seen condemning the seizure of private property for government use and “imperialist expansionism”.
Additionally, Confucian scholar Jia Yi counseled Emperor Wen to abolish the act of punishing an entire family for the actions of one individual, abolish mutilation as a punishment, and abolish taxes on agriculture.
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