Ideology of Power and Power of Ideology in Early China.

Author:Olberding, Garret
Position::Book review
 
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Ideology of Power and Power of Ideology in Early China. Edited by YURI PINES, PAUL R. GOLDIN, and MARTIN KERN. Sinica Leidensia, vol. 124. Leiden: BRILL, 2015. Pp. viii + 348. [euro]120, $152.

The general absence of Chinese political thought in Western philosophical studies and encyclopedias is well attested, and most shameful. Ideology of Power and Power of Ideology in Early China, edited by Yuri Pines, Paul Goldin, and Martin Kern, is devoted to its further exploration, and hopeful expanded appreciation. In his introduction, Pines protests what he sees as a "woeful" paucity of attention to the political in research on the early Chinese intellectual tradition: "Of the many thousands of publications in China, Japan, and the West that explore pre-imperial Chinese philosophy, only a small fraction focuses on the political content of the Masters' texts" (p. 6). This assertion unfortunately trades upon an overly restrictive definition of the political, for, as with many celebrated texts in the Western tradition, political theory almost by necessity involves ethics. Furthermore, most ethical questions in the classical Chinese Masters texts were directed at those involved in governance. Nevertheless, there is still cause to give focused attention to early Chinese political thought, especially when the investigations approach lesser known texts, such as the Yanzi chunqiu, or recently excavated manuscripts, such as the Liye finds.

Without question, Warring States Masters texts had a hugely seminal influence on various topics, frequently presenting exemplars as case studies or thought experiments to encourage their readership to consider the involved complexities without the sometime simplifications provided by transcendental universalizations so rife in Western philosophical studies. These case studies and the consideration of various pragmatic issues related to political life are the root of praxis, the situating of large problems in their contexts (p. 11). This fine volume delves into various such practicalities, providing examinations of both excavated and received texts on numerous topics relevant to early Chinese rulership: the sage-monarch, the relationship between minister and ruler, religious omens, the interface between ritual and morality, and so on. Because of space, I provide synopses of a limited selection, to offer readers a sense of the volume's compass. On the whole, the essays are of such value that readers should be able to find...

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