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    Legalism is a school of thought in Chinese history that advocates the use of the law to govern the country. During Easten Zhou Dynasty, which is composed of the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods, there was never an organization or school called "Legalism". "Hanshu Yiwenzhi" is listed as one of the "nine streams". Legalism matured very late, but its origins were very early. Its source of thought can be traced back to Liguan in the Xia and Shang Dynasties. During the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, Guan Zhong, Li Kui, Zichan, Wu Qi, Shang Yang, Shen Zi, Shen Zi, Le Yi, Ju Xin and others developed it, and it became a school of thought. At the end of the Warring States Period, Han Fei gathered its culmination. In the Han Dynasty, their theories were summarized and synthesized, and their ideas became the basis for governing the country.

    History[edit | edit source]

    The Beginnings of Legalism[edit | edit source]

    Qin Dynasty [edit | edit source]

    Han Dynasty[edit | edit source]

    Three Kingdoms[edit | edit source]

    Beliefs[edit | edit source]

    Authoritarian Rule[edit | edit source]

    in Legalism entails a political philosophy that strongly supports a centralized and autocratic form of governance. According to Legalist thought, a society can only achieve stability and order when there is a powerful ruler exercising absolute authority. This ruler is seen as the linchpin for maintaining control and preventing social disorder.

    Legalists argue that a single, authoritative figure is necessary to make decisive decisions and enforce laws without delay. They believe that a strong leader can swiftly respond to challenges and threats, ensuring the security and stability of the state. This approach contrasts with more decentralized forms of governance, as Legalism contends that a centralized authority is crucial for effective rule.

    In an authoritarian system influenced by Legalist principles, the ruler's power is often unchecked, allowing for quick and forceful implementation of policies. The emphasis is on maintaining a sense of order, discipline, and hierarchy within the society, with citizens expected to adhere strictly to the ruler's directives.

    Legalist thinkers, such as Han Feizi, viewed the ruler's authority as indispensable for preventing internal strife and external threats. They believed that a well-ordered state required a leader with the ability to command obedience, enact and enforce laws, and make decisions for the greater good of the state, even if it meant using strict measures to control the populace.

    Strict Legal Code[edit | edit source]

    Legalism advocates for the establishment of a comprehensive and unambiguous legal system. This involves the creation of clear and detailed laws that cover various aspects of society, ranging from individual behavior to state affairs. The goal is to provide a structured framework that leaves minimal room for interpretation and ensures that citizens understand the consequences of their actions.

    In a Legalist system, the legal code is not only strict but also uniformly applied, regardless of one's social status. The emphasis is on creating a predictable and rule-based society where everyone is subject to the same set of laws. This approach is seen as essential for maintaining order and preventing corruption, as individuals are expected to conform to the established legal norms.

    Han Feizi, argued that a rigorous legal code served as a powerful tool for governance, allowing rulers to control the behavior of their subjects. The belief was that a society governed by clear and harsh laws would discourage wrongdoing and promote a sense of collective responsibility.

    Harsh Punishments[edit | edit source]

    In the context of Legalism, the principle of "Harsh Punishments" emphasizes the use of severe and punitive measures as a means of maintaining social order and deterring undesirable behavior. Legalist thinkers argued that a strict legal code needed to be supported by punishments that were swift, certain, and severe to effectively discourage disobedience and maintain control.

    The idea behind harsh punishments is rooted in the belief that individuals would be dissuaded from breaking the law if the consequences were severe. Legalists asserted that leniency and mercy in punishments could lead to a breakdown in social order, as people might be less deterred from committing offenses if the penalties were not substantial.

    Examples of harsh punishments in Legalist thought include corporal punishment, public executions, and collective punishments that affected families or communities. The intention was not only to punish the individual offender but also to serve as a deterrent for others who might contemplate violating the law.

    Centralized Authority[edit | edit source]

    Legalism, as an ancient Chinese political and philosophical school of thought, places paramount importance on the concept of centralized authority. This principle advocates for a strong, concentrated power vested in a singular ruler at the apex of the political hierarchy. In the Legalist framework, a centralized authority is viewed as indispensable for the effective governance and stability of a state.

    In the Legalist perspective, a centralized authority serves as the linchpin that holds the entire political structure together. This ruler is vested with absolute power, enabling quick and decisive decision-making. The rationale behind this concentration of power is rooted in the belief that a single, authoritative figure can respond promptly to challenges, enact laws, and maintain order without the delays associated with a more decentralized decision-making process.

    Moreover, Legalists argue that a centralized authority is crucial for preventing internal strife and external threats. By consolidating power in the hands of one ruler, the potential for factionalism and power struggles is minimized, contributing to a more stable political environment. The Legalist emphasis on stability and order is intertwined with the idea that a centralized authority provides a coherent and unified response to challenges faced by the state.

    The ruler in a Legalist system is expected to wield authority with a firm hand, ensuring that directives are executed swiftly and with precision. This concentration of power is not merely about control but is seen as a pragmatic necessity to navigate the complexities of governance effectively. The ruler's authority, according to Legalism, extends to all aspects of the state, from the formulation of laws to the enforcement of punishments, creating a system where the leader's influence permeates every facet of society.

    Realism in Politics[edit | edit source]

    The concept of realism in politics represents a pragmatic and often ruthless approach to statecraft. Legalist thinkers, notably Han Feizi, emphasized a stark and realistic assessment of human nature, power dynamics, and the challenges of governance. Realism in politics, as embraced by Legalism, encompasses several key principles that shape the philosophy's approach to the political landscape.

    Firstly, Legalist realism acknowledges the inherently self-interested and competitive nature of individuals. Legalist thinkers believed that individuals are primarily motivated by their own interests, and this realistic appraisal forms the basis for crafting effective political strategies. Rather than relying on idealistic notions of human nature, Legalism opts for a clear-eyed understanding that guides policy decisions.

    Secondly, realism in politics, as viewed through the lens of Legalism, recognizes the centrality of power. Legalist thinkers argued that the pursuit and consolidation of power are fundamental to successful governance. The ruler, according to Legalism, must understand power dynamics, both internal and external, and employ strategies that enhance the state's strength and security.

    Moreover, Legalist realism advocates for flexibility and adaptability in political maneuvering. The pragmatic nature of Legalism implies that policies should be adjusted based on changing circumstances, and the ruler must be willing to employ a variety of methods, even if they are considered harsh or unconventional, to achieve and maintain control.

    In the realm of international relations, Legalist realism extends to a cautious and pragmatic approach. Legalist thinkers advised rulers to prioritize the state's interests and security, often emphasizing a stance of self-reliance and careful diplomacy. This realism in dealing with external affairs reflects Legalism's focus on ensuring the survival and prosperity of the state in a competitive geopolitical environment.

    Moral Education Through Punishment[edit | edit source]

    In the philosophy of Legalism, the concept of "Moral Education Through Punishment" reflects a distinctive approach to shaping the behavior of individuals within society. Legalist thinkers, notably Han Feizi, believed that punishment played a crucial role not only in maintaining order and enforcing laws but also in instilling a sense of moral discipline and conformity among the populace.

    The central tenet of this idea lies in the belief that individuals can be morally educated and guided toward socially acceptable behavior through the judicious application of punishments. In the Legalist perspective, punishment is not solely punitive but serves as a tool for imparting moral lessons and reinforcing societal norms.

    Legalism asserts that individuals are motivated primarily by self-interest and may deviate from ethical conduct without proper guidance. Therefore, the state, under Legalist principles, assumes the responsibility of using punishments strategically to educate and mold the moral character of its citizens.

    The punishments prescribed by Legalism are often harsh and serve as a deterrent against deviant behavior. However, beyond deterrence, Legalists argue that the infliction of punishments creates a collective awareness of moral boundaries and fosters a shared understanding of right and wrong within society.

    Moral education through punishment operates on the premise that the fear of severe consequences encourages individuals to internalize societal norms and adhere to ethical standards. The idea is not simply to mete out retribution but to actively shape the moral fabric of the community through a carefully calibrated system of rewards and punishments.

    Legalist thinkers envisioned a society where individuals, through the experience of punishment, would develop a moral consciousness and a sense of obligation to uphold the established order. In this way, punishment becomes a means of inculcating virtues, social responsibility, and a shared ethical framework among the populace.

    Meritocratic Government[edit | edit source]

    Legalism advocates for the selection and appointment of officials based on their abilities, competence, and merit rather than factors such as hereditary privilege or social status. Legalist thinkers, particularly Han Feizi, argued that the efficiency and stability of a state depended on having capable individuals in positions of authority.

    In a meritocratic system influenced by Legalist principles, the emphasis is on identifying and promoting individuals who demonstrate talent, skills, and a commitment to the state's well-being. The ruler, according to Legalism, should establish a rigorous system of examinations and assessments to evaluate the capabilities of potential officials. This approach is intended to ensure that those in power are genuinely qualified and capable of contributing to effective governance.

    The meritocratic concept in Legalism is closely tied to the pragmatic belief that the state's success hinges on the competence of its leadership. Legalists argued against the hereditary transmission of power, contending that leadership positions should be earned through demonstrated ability rather than inherited based on lineage or social standing.

    By promoting a meritocratic approach to governance, Legalism seeks to mitigate the risks associated with nepotism and favoritism. The goal is to create a government structure where officials are selected based on objective criteria, fostering a more efficient and accountable administrative system.

    Relationships[edit | edit source]

    Friends[edit | edit source]

    • Pragmatism - Everything should be useful, and my users are rulers.

    Frenemies[edit | edit source]

    • Taoism - My original main philosophic basement, but too weak and inactive. Why don't you find the right way to change the reality?
    • Mohism - Your logics, debates, non-office, division and restoring ancient are all useless to states.
      However, I studied your logics and debates, and mine are useful.
    • School of Names - You studied Mohism like me, but become as useless as it.

    Enemies[edit | edit source]

    • Reactionaryism - You shouldn't follow ancient rules and regulations when governing a country!
    • Confucianism - The ancient people were simple and benevolent, so the ruling of De used to be justified and valuable. While the people nowadays are hypocritical and speculative, so the ruling of De has lost its value and the people should be restrained by strict laws.

    Further Information[edit | edit source]

    Wikipedia[edit | edit source]

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