, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 323–337 | Cite as

Governing Through the Dao: A Non-Anarchistic Interpretation of the Laozi

  • Alex FeldtEmail author


Within the literature, Daoist political philosophy has often been linked with anarchism. While some extended arguments have been offered in favor of this conclusion, I take this position to be tenuous and predicated on an assumption that coercive authority cannot be applied through wuwei. Focusing on the Laozi as the fundamental political text of classical Daoism, I lay out a general account of why one ought to be skeptical of classifying it as anarchistic. Keeping this skepticism in mind and recognizing the importance of wuwei in arguments for the anarchist conclusion, I provide a non-anarchistic interpretation of wuwei as a political technique that is consistent with the text of the Laozi. Having presented a plausible alternative to the anarchist understanding of wuwei, I close my discussion with a brief sketch of a positive account of the political theory of the Laozi.


Classical Daoism Laozi Political philosophy wuwei Anarchism 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA

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