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Moral Concern in the Legalist State

Abstract

This article attempts to describe the extent to which the Legalist political vision possesses moral concern. Drawing from the Book of Lord Shang (Shang Jun Shu 商君書) and the Hanfeizi 韓非子, I investigate the discipline reinforced by rewards and punishments, the relationship between the state and its subjects, and the interiorization of the law’s production of subject self-determination. With a positive sociological lens, this study guides its discussion utilizing a Durkheimian definition of moral education. I argue that its three elements of morality share a very similar pedagogical quality with the interplay of Legalist law and its reinforcements. Moreover, the effects of rewards prove to play a particularly enhanced role in the cultivation of discipline and commitment to impersonal objectives amongst the populace.

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Correspondence to Brandon King.

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King, B. Moral Concern in the Legalist State. Dao 19, 391–407 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11712-020-09733-0

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Keywords

  • Hanfeizi 韓非子
  • Legalism
  • Book of Lord Shang
  • Pedagogy
  • Moral education
  • Durkheim