Chat with us, powered by LiveChat How did ancient societies think of the relationship between the individual and the State? How does this compare to contemporary ways of thinking about this relationship today? I - Writingforyou

How did ancient societies think of the relationship between the individual and the State? How does this compare to contemporary ways of thinking about this relationship today? I


1,000-1,400 words. Double-spaced text, 12 pt. Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins. Author-Date reference format for sources you cite (for example, Szczurek 2020)

The questions for this response is: 

How did ancient societies think of the relationship between the individual and the State? How does this compare to contemporary ways of thinking about this relationship today?

In starting to answer these questions, you will choose 2-3 texts from Unit 1 to guide your thinking and one example from our contemporary world.  Which topics or themes interest you most?  

In thinking about political theory today, you can briefly reference current-day events, debates, problems and how we imagine and theorize about them.

You do not need to try to cover or mention all the themes and ideas discussed during Unit 1.  The goal is not to definitively answer the question by the end of the response, but to explore some possible answers to the question, and why they make sense to you.


· Imagine you are at a party, where the thinkers we read and discussed are in attendance; everyone is hanging out and talking.  Choose 2-3 people we read or heard from and ask them the research question above – how would they respond?     

· Choose the texts and thinkers based on your personal curiosity – who do you want to talk to more?  Think about more?

· When in doubt, go for depth, over breadth: include fewer texts, authors, or themes than you might initially think you need.

· Balance between your own thoughts and ideas, and the thoughts and ideas of your chosen authors and texts.  If you were having a live conversation with these writers and thinkers, is everyone getting a somewhat-equal say?  Or is someone dominating the conversation? 

· Use your notes from your own original reading and our live class discussions 

· Reference your notes from the Week 2 lecture on the Origins of Political Thought 


A successful Unit Response…

· engages directly with your chosen research question

· Includes at least one of the readings from Weeks 1-2, including at least one direct quote 

· Directly discusses and cites 2-3 texts from Unit #1, weeks 2-5. Include at least two direct quotes from each source.

· briefly references one contemporary example of politics or political theory

· includes 2-4 questions you are still left with in the concluding paragraph 

· is edited, with few typos or grammar errors.



No two ancient political cultures were more different that those that became established in India and China. Knowledge of ancient China has been revolutionized by archaeological discoveries which are still going on. These include discoveries of important philosophical texts. The Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BCE) was replaced in c. 1046 by the Zhou dynasty. This lasted effectively till 771, and in attenuated form till 256. During the Spring and Autumn period (771–453 BCE),1 there was still an overall cultural community, but the country was divided up into de facto independent states in competition with each other. The Zhou kings remained theoretical overlords, but actual power was divided among hegemons (ba), tied to the Zhou by lineage, but in fact independent. Confucius (c. 551–479 BCE) lived at the end of this period.

From 453 to 221 BCE (the ‘Warring States’ period), competition between states intensified. Smaller states were swallowed up by larger, more powerful states, which became increasingly centralized. During this period of political flux and frequent warfare, Chinese philosophy got started—much as it did during the age of independent poleis in Greece.

Reformers advocating different approaches to government competed for the ear of rulers. The followers of Confucius (‘the gentle (ru)’) (ST 41) specialized in advice on the traditional norms and ritual (li) enshrined in the Classics.2 The followers of Mozi (c. 460–390 BCE) (Mohists) were specialists in defensive warfare.3 Mengzi (c. 379–304 BCE) was the most famous and com- mitted disciple of Confucius. Shang Yang (Lord Shang) (d. 338), chief minister of the state of Qin in western China, introduced a new realist way of thinking about public policy and the state. He and those who thought like him became known as Legalists, due to their emphasis on the written laws of the ruler. Xunzi (c. 310–218 BCE) was a Confucian, but also an original thinker who synthesized different approaches. We shall meet with others.

Between 231 and 221 the state of Qin conquered all the other states in a ruthless campaign, and unified the whole of China. Its king, Qin, proclaimed himself emperor (huangdi: lit. august thearch). In 209 a peasants’ revolt resulted in the establishment of the more amenable Han dynasty, which lasted


until 220 CE. By this time, the main contours of Chinese political thought and culture were well and truly established. The Shang dynasty, like early states everywhere, was a sacred monarchy.

The king was the lineage head (‘I, the one man’); the state was ‘inseparable from the king and the royal lineage’ (Lewis 1999: 15). The royal ancestral line was ‘the centre of the cosmos’ (Aihe Wang 2000: 43). This view of the central role of the state in the scheme of things survived in China much longer than anywhere else, and is still in evidence today. The Shang ruler had supreme authority. This was related to his religious

functions: only he could perform divination rituals, interpret communications from ancestors, and offer the sacrifices which, it was thought, were needed for prosperity and victory. The well-being of society and the natural order were thought to depend upon due performance of rituals by the ruler. Already ‘written documents played a major role in the organisation of the state’;4

bureaucracy had begun. The revolution of c. 1046 BCE was based on, or gave rise to, the belief

that the ‘Mandate (or Decree) of Heaven’ (tian ming) had passed to the Zhou lineage, because of the Shang’s misrule and the virtue (de)5 of the Zhou. The Zhou took the title ‘Son of Heaven’. This was the beginning of a distinctive theory of sacred monarchy in China. The Mandate played the same pivotal role in China as the Covenant played in Israel, except that the Zhou monarchy sought to monopolize access to Heaven. The Zhou succeeded in establishing ‘an understanding . . . of the world that would undergird all sub- sequent Chinese intellectual discourse’, and the ‘canons of governmental propriety’ (CHAC 351). During the Spring and Autumn period government was still based upon

kinship and hierarchy. But the rulers of the several states, while in theory representing the Zhou emperor as ‘Son of Heaven’, in fact relied on their own military force. Attempts to base inter-state relations on traditional norms failed. The power of these hegemons later devolved to warrior elites, based in cities though still organized in aristocratic lineages. During the later Spring and Autumn period larger states emerged. These

were still supposed to be part of the Zhou cultural community, and acknow- ledged, in theory at least, the same system of behaviour and ritual. But domestic and inter-state politics was now based on naked use of force and unrestrained warfare. The Zhou king, though still nominally ‘Son of Heaven’, was ignored. There was a legitimacy deficit.

Power was based ‘on the unique person of the ruler’.6 Hereditary office and obligation were steadily replaced by the direct control of all subjects by the ruler. Kings came to rely on a new stratum of government officials, the shi. These ‘men of service’ were chosen for their skill and mental agility, ‘a class of men similar to the samurai of medieval Japan [and] originally serving as soldiers’ (CHAC 566, 604). They were employed in civil and military roles,


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for purposes both technical and occult. Rulers relied on the shi as experts in politics, management, warfare, and cosmology. Such were the circumstances in which Confucius taught.

At the same time there appeared ‘a new form of military commander, a specialist’ who led ‘through mastery of military techniques’. In place of aristocratic and lineage values, these leaders ‘presented combat as an intellec- tual discipline’, dependent upon ‘the powers of mind and textual mastery’, combined with ‘the unthinking obedience and uniform actions of the troops’. The general was compared to a sage who discovered, or created, ‘pattern in the chaos of battle’ (Lewis 1990: 11, 97, 121, 230). This parallel chain of command during battle overrode that of the king.

The shi, if they were dissatisfied or could find a better post, would move from one state to another. This gave them a certain leverage, and contributed to their intellectual independence. It also reflected the cultural oikoumenē. The shi saw themselves as members of an intellectual community connecting them to their master regardless of time and place. For them, ‘entering the service meant receiving a rank in the state hierarchy’; in this way a shi could become ‘a legitimate member of the ruling elite’.7

This was of decisive importance for the development of Chinese political thought. It was one reason why the political order played such a dominant role in Chinese philosophy, in fact more dominant than anywhere else. In no other culture would the history of thought and the history of the state be so closely intertwined. Ethical and philosophical reflection developed in response to the increasingly problematic political situation. This was the period of ‘a hundred schools’. China produced a greater variety of political ideas than any other monarchical agrarian civilization.

Traditional norms, though still respected by many, were widely disregarded in practice, and wielders of power resorted to unrestrained force. There emerged a variety of ideas about legitimate authority and public ethics. There was systematic debate of an intensity which we find nowhere else except in Greece. Knowledge entered the public arena; ethics and politics were opened up to discussion, argument, and proof.

But discussion was limited to monarchy and did not, as in Greece, consider other types of state.8 Chinese and Greek philosophy and science may be fruitfully compared, as parallel and equally remarkable, although quite differ- ent, achievements (Lloyd 2002). But a similarly close comparison of Chinese and Greek political thought is less easy, because their accomplishments were quite different.

The role of the shi was one of the primary concerns of Confucius, Mozi, and Mengzi. The shi ‘overwhelmingly opted for a political career as a main avenue of self-realization’. Confucius himself, who has been called ‘the first intellec- tual leader of the shi’, ‘shaped decisively their approach to holding office’, by upholding the moral commitment to serve the government, but only on their


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own terms (Pines 2009: 3, 145–6). For Confucius, the truly noble man (junzi)9

was not necessarily an aristocrat, but someone who lived according to the code of behaviour known as ‘the rites (li)’ (below). The difference between the noble and the ‘small’ man was that the former ‘concentrates on right’, the latter on ‘advantage’, especially financial gain (CA 4.16). Confucius’ father, a warrior and administrator, died when Confucius

was young. Confucius’ Sayings (Lunyu: ‘Analects’) were probably compiled between c. 479 and c. 250 BCE by his followers.10 They are ‘the first text in which the term shi’—referring to ‘people with aspirations’—‘itself becomes an object of enquiry’ (Pines 2009: 120). Confucius served as minister and coun- sellor in various states, often as an adviser on ritual. He repeatedly resigned from posts that proved unsatisfactory. The Sayings take the form of miniature anecdotes, snatches of conversation,

question-and-answer exchanges. They leave spaces to be filled in, questions in the mind. Confucius’ unique teaching method was based on the understand- ing that people make mistakes; the important thing is to correct them (CA 15.30). Above all, his concern is with what can be done (CA 13.3). Indeed, the Sayings reveal a specific approach to the relationship between theory and practice. They communicate a method of moral judgment, an approach to life (B&B 197). The focus is on ethics and ritual conduct rather than on politics; this may have contributed to the work’s lasting influence. The Sayings are comparable, in originality and profundity, with the founding texts of moral or religious development elsewhere.


During the Spring and Autumn period writings on political thought and culture began to appear: parts of the Classic of Odes (Shi Jing) and the Classic of History (or Classic of Documents: Shu Jing), though these were heavily re- edited and added to later.11 These and other Classics12 reached their final form under the early Han. Along with Confucius’ Sayings, they became the textual basis of authority in China down to the nineteenth century (Lewis 1999: esp. 196, 217). According to the tradition transmitted in these works, ancient sage kings,

and especially the founders of the Zhou dynasty, received authority from heaven. Heaven was conceived as ‘cosmic moral order’;13 the political order paralleled the order of the universe. According to the Lüshi Chunqiu (Master Lu’s Spring and Autumn Annals), a compendium incorporating ideas from various schools of thought, completed at the court of Qin in 241 BCE, the ruler ‘plays a crucial role in the cosmic order’ as the Son of Heaven.14 Human society, nature, and the world of spirits coexist in a continuum. This was later


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understood to mean that, for example, in a time of misrule there will be heavenly portents and natural disorders, as well as popular discontent.

The central tenet of the Zhou monarchy, and of political thinkers writing in the Zhou tradition (especially the followers of Confucius), was that the monarch ruled through the Mandate of Heaven. This Mandate was not unconditional: Heaven is impartial and decides ‘the fate of people . . . accord- ing to a moral standard’.15 The Mandate depended upon the ruler’s possessing virtue (de).16 This was used to explain the rise and fall of dynasties in the past (and, later on, throughout Chinese history). Heaven commands the removal of an unjust ruler, and it then transfers the Mandate to a new dynasty.17 For earlier dynasties, which had once been ‘cherished’ by Heaven, ‘have let the Mandate fall to the ground . . . because they did not care reverently for their virtue’ (Classic of Documents: ST 36–7). Similarly, if rulers (during the Spring and Autumn period) ‘deviate from the way of virtue and behave oppressively and licentiously, they will lose Heaven’s Mandate’, and it may turn out that they are overthrown (in Pines 2002: 58). According to Dong Zhongshu (fl. 152–119 BCE), ‘unnatural portents [are] a warning to a badly-disposed mon- arch . . . and in the last resort [may be] a prediction of the end of a monarch’s period of rule’ (Loewe 1994: 95). Thus the Mandate had an ethical dimension.

The monarch alone represented Heaven, with which he was the supreme, indeed the only, mediator. In the Classic of Documents, the king’s role is said to be to provide spiritual as well as material benefits: ‘the sovereign . . . concen- trates the five happinesses and then diffuses them so as to give them to his people’ (ST 31). In contrast to Israel or India, there was no independent priesthood, no ‘prophets’ (Pines 2002: 61). In this respect there was no dividing-line between the sacred and the political. The drive towards admin- istrative centralization and efficiency during the period 453–222 BCE ‘did not eliminate the old model of the ruler as diviner’ (Lewis 1999: 39). Similarly, in later times Daoist priests and Buddhist monks had nothing to do with the political order. All this helped to make non-monarchical forms of government inconceivable.

One key component of the ruler’s virtue, and therefore of his claim to the Mandate, was that he should treat the people well. (The granting of the Mandate to the Zhou was sometimes taken to mean that it had been granted to the Zhou ‘people’, meaning the clan lineage as a whole: CHAC 315; Pines 2009: 190.) It was said that one reason why the Mandate had been transferred from the Shang dynasty to the Zhou was that ‘our King of Zhou treated well the multitudes of the people’; he ‘was richly capable of cultivating and har- monizing [the people]’ (in Creel 1970: 84). A writer under the early Han repeated the view that Heaven favours a government that is good to the people; one that fails to provide for the people falls.18

Quite apart from the Mandate, the Way of the ruler was generally conceived as ‘to benefit others’ (Lüshi Chunqiu, in Pines 2009: 49); Heaven ‘sets up the


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ruler to serve as [the people’s] supervisor and pastor, not to make them lose their nature’; or, as a late fourth-century theorist put it, ‘the Son of Heaven is established for the sake of All under Heaven’, and the ruler ‘for the sake of the state’, not the other way round.19

The condition of the common people (min) was a major concern of Confucius and his followers.20 The people, especially the poor and the disad- vantaged or disabled, should be treated kindly by their social superiors (‘lead them, work them . . . Do not weary them’: CA 13.1).21 This was in accordance with the view stated in theOdes: the people are ‘indeed heavily burdened and it is time for them to rest a while’.22

The Classics sometimes said, or implied, that the existence of the Mandate—in other words, the ruler’s legitimacy—could be discerned from the people’s state of mind. For example, the Classic of Documents said that the king should behave virtuously ‘in order that [he], through the little people, may receive Heaven’s enduring Mandate’ (ST 36–7). Another writer said that ‘Heaven inevitably follows the people’s desires’ (in Pines 2009: 189). Mengzi cited a passage (now lost) from the Classic of Documents to the effect that ‘Heaven looks through the eyes of our people, Heaven listens through the ears of our people’ (Graham 1989: 116). Indeed, Lewis suggests that Confucians ‘identified the people with, or substituted them for, Heaven’, and that to Mengzi in particular ‘the Mandate of Heaven was equivalent to the support of the people’ (Lewis 1990: 236). All this might be thought to imply that acceptance by the common people

was necessary for holding the Mandate. An early Zhou document said that ‘the awesomeness and intentions of Heaven are discernible from the people’s feelings’ (in Pines 2009: 189). Others said that those kings of Shang who were wise had ‘feared the brightness of Heaven, and the little people’; a king should ‘fear the danger of the people’ (Creel 1970: 97–8). This view recurs in the Classics. A ruler should strive to be ‘in harmony with the little people . . . [and] prudently apprehensive about what the people say’ (ST 36). This suggests a fear of the unpredictable. A ruler would be well advised to listen to the people, by ‘consulting the grass- and firewood-gatherers’ (Odes, in HCPT 158). With the decline of the Zhou monarchy, the concept of Heaven itself

changed. ‘There was an increasing tendency to identify Heaven as an imper- sonal, natural, and self-operating force’, perhaps even unintelligible (Yang 1957: 273). During the period from 453 to 222 BCE, the transcendental basis of the state was also conceived as the Way (dao). This made political issues potentially more open to ethical and pragmatic criteria. The dependence of the Mandate (in some sense) on the people may

be related to the changing concept of Heaven. For example, the ritual language affirming the quality of sacrificial offerings was interpreted as af- firming the well-being of the state or the people (Pines 2002: 77). This may be


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seen as a kind of secularization of political thought. ‘The Way of Heaven is distant, while the Way of man is near’, it was said in 523 BCE (in ibid. 69). People began to think that ‘the disasters of the people do not descend from Heaven but arise from men’ (ibid. 59). Quite apart from Heaven, gods in general were regarded with a certain

scepticism. The people are more important. Confucius is famous for having dismissed ghosts and the spirits of the dead as irrelevant to the one important task, serving the people (CA 6.22; 7.21; 11.12). As early as 706 BCE, a political adviser is reported as saying: ‘the people are the masters of the deities. Therefore sage kings carried out the people’s affairs first, and then attended to the deities’ (Zuozhuan, in Pines 2002: 76–7). But it was also sometimes said that the people express the gods’ will, implying that if you please the people, you please the gods. ‘When a state is to prosper, [rulers] listen to the people; when it is to perish they listen to the deities’ (in ibid. 78). In other words, relying on the religious interpretation of phenomena is a last resort of a failing regime, and may be misleading. Or, as Pines puts it, ‘it was the people, not the priests, to whom the deities were really attentive’ (ibid. 71). Xunzi implied that prayers and divination are in reality a mere cultural ritual.23

Under the early Han there was a similar move to interpret omens in a more ‘rationalistic’ way, not as ‘signs of natural order or destiny’, but rather as ‘indications of Heaven’s intentions’ (Aihe Wang 2000: 177). According to Lu Jia (fl. c. 206–180 BCE), ‘Heaven communicates with human beings by rectify- ing them with catastrophes’ (in ibid. 177). This too led (paradoxically, it may seem, but only superficially so) to a moralization and politicization of the interpretation of natural phenomena:

the decline of the world and the loss of [the Way] is not what Heaven makes happen, but rather what the ruler of the state causes to happen . . .When the Dao of ruling is missing below, the pattern of Heaven will reflect it above. When evil government spreads through the people, insect plagues will be generated on earth.24

Social disintegration and natural disasters came to be seen by some as the result of bad government rather than of Heaven (Goldin 2007: 148–52). By these arguments, scholars could overturn the authority of shamans and religious specialists, and claim for themselves ‘the highest authority in omen interpretation’.25

Confucians not only expressed compassion for the sufferings of the people, but were also concerned about how the people actually felt. Many shi were of humble origins. In the Sayings, humaneness (below, p. 188) is said to be closer to the people ‘than water or fire’ (CA 15.35). The man of simple means can act virtuously within his small domain. Confucius praised one who ‘had a lowly hall and chamber, but put forth all his strength on ditching and draining’ (CA 8.2).

It seems to us just one step from these sentiments to saying that the people determine who the ruler should be; or at least, who he should not be. The idea


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of Heaven revealing its will through events, among which manifestations of popular discontent may be one, could perhaps have given rise to an idea of the Mandate as bestowed directly by the people. It was from texts exactly like these that political theorists in Europe developed arguments justifying elections, representative parliaments, and the like. Some Chinese writers seem to have come tantalizingly close to this.

According to a sixth-century source, ministers who are members of the royal family could depose a ruler who persists in his mistakes; in doing so, they would be carrying out the will of Heaven and of the people. For Mozi, the ruler is appointed directly by Heaven, which could mean all kinds of things. For Mengzi, Heaven decides who should be Son of Heaven partly on the basis of public opinion. He was the thinker who came closest to what we call constitu- tionalism and democracy. He told a king on one occasion that, ‘when the ruler makes a serious mistake’, his ministers have a duty to admonish him; and if ‘he still will not listen, they depose him’. But when the king appeared upset by this, Mengzi amended his statement to: ‘they retire’. And he also said that ‘nobody should claim he is a new recipient of Heaven’s Decree’ (for Heaven operates in mysterious ways).26 The Guanzi recommended that a benevolent ruler should not ‘keep the throne from generation to generation’, but resign at the age of seventy.27 In the later fourth century there was a groundswell of opinion in favour of abdication as ‘the only means of ensuring orderly rule’. Hereditary succession was modified as views of the Mandate of Heaven

changed. Other methods of appointing the ruler were considered, and some- times preferred. There was a tendency to apply the principle of appointment on merit to the ruler: a good ruler would give his throne, not necessarily to his sons, but to the worthiest of his ministers.28

But the idea of the people bestowing the Mandate was not developed in China. The connection between the Mandate and public opinion was never taken to imply a right to revolt. Rather, it meant that if, as a matter of fact, the people were alienated and disillusioned, this would signal that the Mandate had departed, and the government would in fact fall. The people express the will of Heaven tacitly and almost unconsciously; and to some extent after the event. The Confucian view, similarly, was one of enlightened paternalism: it is the

duty of government to look after the people, but there was no suggestion that the people were to be consulted about how this should be done. On the contrary, the people are, as a matter of observable fact, moulded by whoever is in power: ‘if you desire the good, the people will be good. The virtue of the gentleman is the wind; the virtue of the people is the grass’ (CA 12.17, 19). Similarly, ‘if one day [the ruler] can overcome himself and turn to humane- ness, the world will turn to humaneness along with him’ (CA 12.1; 13.12). The Confucian ideal was a moral ruler and a moral ruling class who would give the people moral leadership. There was a tendency among Confucians to regard


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the people themselves as ignorant and small-minded. Confucians did not give ‘the people’ any authority to act on their own behalf; only the moral and intellectual elite were qualified to speak for them. But, when they did so, they had a kind of popular authority behind them (Pines 2009: 210).

There was thus no question of the people’s active participation in the political process. Yet their opinions were not unimportant; and, if they were ignored, disaster could follow. One reason why thinkers did not develop the people’s role further was perhaps the lack of any institutional means of expressing the will of the amorphous masses. But there seems to have been no inherent philosophical reason why a theory of popular sovereignty should not have developed (Chan 2007).

On the other hand, criticism of the government could be quite open, as when the Classic of Odes said: ‘the people below are all exhausted. You utter talk that is not true’ (in CHAC 335). Both the Mandate and the king’s virtue were sometimes said to depend upon his consulting virtuous counsellors (CHAC 315). Confucius insisted that, if a ruler misbehaves, his minister has a duty to protest (CA 14.22).


Status and hierarchy were enshrined in the system of li (‘rites’: ethics and manners, ritual conduct). The obligations and privileges of hereditary status had been reinforced by ritual changes in the ninth century which reaffirmed differences in rank.

Alongside this, tradition assigned a distinctive role to ministers and advis- ers. In the period 771–453 BCE ministerial lineages acquired considerable power, and they dominated political thinking (Pines 2002: 90, 161–2). In the Warring States period, when the shi were replacing hereditary nobles as political advisers, there was renewed emphasis on the responsibilities and political standing of ministers, which was after all what the politically articu- late shi aspired to be. The ideal type was the duke of Zhou, brother to the king who had founded the Zhou dynasty. He was portrayed as a model of the loyal and selfless adviser; as Confucius put it in his oblique way: ‘How I have gone downhill! It has been such a long time since I dreamt of the Duke of Zhou’ (CA 7.5).

Confucius’ political priorities were in fact partially democratic and repub- lican in spirit. He believed in equality of opportunity and an overriding duty to serve the state. The central plank in the reform programme of Confucius and his followers was ‘advance worthy talents’ (CA 13: 2): here Confucian values


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and the interests of the shi coincided. Confucians, nevertheless, balanced the claims of merit with those of noble birth.29 The distinction between the ‘noble person’ and the ‘little people’ rationalized transference of power to newcomers without undermining the traditional social structure. Mengzi based status on the distinction between mental and manual labour: ‘Those who labour with their minds govern others, while those who labour with their strength are governed by others’ (ST 132). Xunzi was particularly insistent on the need for differences in rank if society were to be stable.30

The followers of Mozi (Mohists), on the other hand, went much further than the Confucians and rejected noble birth outright as a qualification for office: social distinctions should be based exclusively on merit. Both Mozi and Xunzi were less compromising here than Confucius. For Mozi, ‘advancing the worthy’ and ‘employing the capable’ should mean complete equality of op- portunity.31 One could perhaps say that Mozi pursued Confucius’ thoughts more wholeheartedly than Confucius himself. He rejected the Confucian middle way between the claims of talent and noble birth; the sage-kings of the past had appointed peasants and craftsmen to high office (Graham 1989: 45). Pure meritocracy is essential if a ruler is to fulfil his function. Xunzi argued that descendants of kings and nobles who were unworthy should be reduced to the rank of commoners; descendants of commoners who ‘have acquired culture and learning [and] are upright in their personal conduct’ should be promoted to the highest rank (ST 167).

Legalist thinkers said that office and status should be based solely on ability and achievement. But they rejected virtue as well as hereditary status as a qualification.32 The best chief ministers and g