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Legalism

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Definitions
 Leagalism ( fajia )
 Emphasizes the need for order above all other human concerns  Main principle: humans are inherently evil and inclined toward criminal and selfish behavior, and the solution to this problem is harsh punishment  Provided the theoretic foundation for the centralization of power in the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BCE)

 fa (law or principle) – refers to several ways in which state power could be organized and exercised:
 Through laws and punishments,  Administrative and military systems,  Policy planning,  Statecraft,  Or methods of personnel management

This was to be achieved by:  Concentrating power in the hands of a single ruler  Adopting governmental institutions that afforded greater centralized control . “Legalism” was probably the outgrowth of a need for more rational organization of society and resources so as to strengthen a state against its rivals.Historical Background In its earliest form.

.  Shang Yang: completely rejected the traditional virtues of humanity and rightness that the Confucians had urged upon rulers. who put the state and its interests ahead of all human and moral concerns came forward. technicians of power. denying that such lofty ideas had any practical relationship to the harsh realities of political life.Historical Background As the struggle among the Warring States became more intense.

Legalist Ideas  A political order in which all old feudal divisions of power would be swept away and all authority would reside in one centralized administration headed by an absolute monarch  The state would be ordered by a set of laws that would be administered with complete regularity and impar tiality  Severe punishments would restrain any violations. while generous rewards would encourage what was beneficial to the strength and well-being of the state .

were to be severely restricted  The people would live frugal and obedient lives devoted to the interests of the state in peace and war . would be promoted intensively. as the basis of economy. regarded as nonessential and diversionar y. expanding the state. while commerce and intellectual endeavor. and making the people strong. disciplined and submissive  Agriculture.Legalist Ideas  War a means of strengthening the power of the ruler.

Shang Yang (390-338 BCE) The need for strong and decisive leader ship State domination over the people Reliance on strict laws  Generous rewards and harsh punishments rather than on traditional fiduciary relations and family ethics Advocated concentration of the people’s energies on agriculture and war Suppression of political par ties. par ticularly targeting Confucian scholars who raised troublesome political issues .

The Book of Lord Shang .

and scholars are immersed in the study of what is repor ted from antiquity. a wise man creates laws. but a foolish man is controlled by them. a man of talent reforms rites. but a wor thless man is enslaved by them… (p. but they are not the kind who can take par t in a discussion that goes beyond the law… Therefore. These two kinds of men are impor tant for filling offices and for maintaining the law.Reform of the Law  “Ordinar y people abide by old practices.171) .

but a countr y that loves talking is dismembered… (pp. The ruler makes the people single-minded so they will not scheme for selfish profit.AGRICULTURE and war  “The way to administer a state well is for the laws regulating officials to be clear. 188-189) . Then the strength of the state will be consolidated. and a state whose strength has been consolidated is power ful. one does not rely on men to be intelligent and thoughtful.

If there is consistency of conduct in officials. the countr y is rich. for his honor. (pp. and likewise the ruler.Agriculture and War  “The state depends on agriculture and war for its peace. if the people are not engaged in agriculture and war. To have the state both rich and well governed is the way to attain supremacy. 188-189) . it means that the ruler loves words and that the officials have lost the consistency of conduct. Indeed. the state is well governed. and if single-mindedness is strived for.

’  “If in the application of punishments. light offenses should be regarded as serious. in the application of punishments. if light offences do not occur.Discussing the People  “It is the nature of people to be orderly. This is said to be ‘ruling the people in a state of lawlessness. but it is circumstances that cause disorder. and. and light offenses are regarded as light.’ . light offenses will not cease. there will be no means of stopping the serious ones. serious ones have no chance of coming. in consequence. Therefore. serious offences are regarded as serious. This is said to be ‘ruling the people while in a state of law and order.

then punishments will appear. and the state will be strong. punishments will be abolished. affairs will succeed. trouble will arise and the state will be dismembered… (p.209) .Discussing the People “…So if light offenses are regarded as serious. but if serious offenses are regarded as serious and light ones as light. moreover.

Strength produces force. Humaneness is extending the hear t. in the governing of the people. by his governing of men.258-259) . consequently he is able to exer t strength. is cer tain to win their hear ts. there is that which is most essential.Making Orders Strict  “The sage ruler understands what is essential in affairs and so. The sage ruler. Therefore. he relies on uniformity. The sage ruler alone possesses it. in administering rewards and punishments. prestige produces vir tue. force produces prestige. Vir tue has its origin in strength. and therefore he is able to transmit humaneness and rightness to allunder-Heaven… (pp.

Rewards and Punishments “Punishments should know no degree or grade. violates the interdicts of the state. whoever does not obey the king’s commands. . nor should good behavior in the past cause any derogation of the law for wrong done later. but from ministers of state and generals down to great officers and ordinary folk. or rebels against the statutes fixed by the ruler should be guilty of death and should not be pardoned. “Merit acquired in the past should not cause a decrease in punishment for demerit later.

they should be judged according to the full measure of their guilt. there are those who do not carry out the king’s law. inform their superiors will themselves escape punishment…(p278-279) . they are guilty of death and should not be pardoned. “Colleagues who. but their punishment should be extended to their family for three generations. knowing their offense.Rewards and Punishments “If loyal ministers or filial sons do wrong. and if among the officials who have to maintain the law and to uphold an office.

but if they let their ambition go too far. they are serviceable.Weakening the People “A weak people means a strong state and a strong state means a weak people.303) . Therefore. a state that has the right way is concerned with weakening the people. they let their ambition go too far. being weak. If they are simple. they become strong. and if they are licentious. they will become strong… (p.

a n d S h i. af te r r e a d i n g h is w o r k s . a s h e w a s b o r n in t o t h e r u l in g fa m ily o f t h e s ta te o f H a n . . t h e r u le r f ir m ly c o n t r o ls th e s t a te w it h th e h e lp of Fa . a p h ilo s o p h e r o f th e Wa r r in g S t a te s Pe r i o d ( 475 . S h u .Han Fei Zi E m p e r o r Q in S h ih u a n g r e c o g n iz e d H a n Fe i Z i. I n H a n Fe i' s p h ilo s o p hy. H a n h im s e lf wa s a p a r t o f th e ar i s to c r a c y.2 21 B C ) .

Chapter 40: The Five Vermin .

he simply follows the custom appropriate to the time. he takes into consideration the quantity of things and deliberates on scarcity and plenty. this is not due to his compassion.“When the sage rules. Circumstances change according to the age. Though his punishments may be light. though his penalties may be severe. and ways of dealing with them change with the circumstances… (p. 99) . this is not because he is cruel.

108) . But even the wisest man has difficulty understanding words that are subtle and mysterious. if you do not speak in terms that any man or woman can plainly understand… then you will defeat your own efforts at rule.. (p. how can the common people comprehend them?.“The world calls worthy… those whose words are subtle and mysterious. Now in administering your rule and dealing with the people.. Now. if you want to set up laws for the masses and you try to base them on doctrines that even the wisest men have difficulty in understanding.

The best laws are those that are uniform and inflexible. (p. 104) . so that the people can understand them. so that the people will fear them. The best penalties are those that are severe and inescapable.“The best rewards are those that are generous and predictable. so that the people may profit by them.

Hence it is obvious that humaneness cannot be used to achieve order in the state. (p. The ancient laws allowed law to be supreme and did not give in to tearful longing. 102) .“Humaneness may make one shed tears and be reluctant to apply penalties but law makes it clear that such penalties must be applied.

put on a fair appearance and speak in elegant phrases. .  “Its swordsmen gather bands of followers about them and per form deeds of honor. fur thering their private interests and forgetting the welfare of the state’s altars of the soil and grain. thus casting doubt upon the laws of the time and causing the ruler to be of two minds.The Five Vermin  “Its scholars praise the ways of the former kings and imitate their humaneness and rightness. making a fine name for themselves and violating the provisions of the five government bureaus.  “Its speechmakers propound false schemes and borrow .

in this way escaping the hardship of battle. accumulating riches. and exploiting the farmers (pp.  “Its merchants and ar tisans spend their time in making ar ticles of no practical use and gathering stores of luxur y goods.The Five Vermin  “Those of its people who are worried about militar y ser vice flock to the gate of private individuals and pour out their wealth and bribes to influential men who will plead for them.116-117) . waiting for the best time to sell.

Li Si: Legalist Theories in Practice  Feudal state of Qin  Centralization of power  Regimentation of its people  Aggressive warfare  Qin dynasty was established (221 BCE)  King Cheng Qin Shihuangdi  Li Si: prime minister of the Qin dynasty .

Li Si: Legalist Theories in Practice  Changes:  Complete abolition of all feudal ranks and privileges and the disarmament of all private individuals  The entire area of China was brought under the direct control of the central court through an administrative system of prefectures and counties  Standardization of weights. measures and writing script  Destruction of all feudal barriers between districts  Construction of better roads and communications  Wars were undertaken to subdue neighboring peoples and expand the borders of the nation  Great masses of people were forcibly removed to new areas for the purposes of defense or resettlement  Construction of the Great Wall .