Limits to Autocracy: From Sung Neo-Confucianism to a Doctrine of Political Rights

Front Cover
University of Hawaii Press, Aug 1, 1995 - Political Science - 282 pages
Alan T. Wood examines the cultural identity of modern China in the context of authoritarianism in the Chinese political tradition. Taking on issues of key importance in the understanding of Chinese history, Wood leads readers to a reconsideration of neo-Confucian thinkers of the Northern Sung dynasty. Modern scholars 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 rise of democracy in China. Wood refutes this dominant view by arguing that Sung neo-Confucians intended to limit the power of the emperor, not enhance it.

Sung political thinkers believed passionately in the existence of a moral cosmos governed by universal laws that transcended the ruler and could be invoked to set limits on his power. Wood makes a striking comparison of this view with a similar one of universal morality or natural law that developed in late Medieval Europe. By drawing attention to a much-neglected Confucian text, he contributes significantly to the wider dialog of human rights in China and brings forth fresh philosophical insights in his comparative view of Chinese and Western history.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

The Background of NeoConfucianism
25
Background of the Chunchiu Commentaries
55
Statecraft and Natural Law in the West and China
132
Implications for Modern China and Japan
148
Abbreviations
179
Selected Bibliography
233
Index
255
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1995)

Alan T. Wood is associate professor of history at the University of Washington, Bothell.

Bibliographic information