State maternalism: rethinking anarchist readings of the Daodejing

Flavel, S and Hall, B (2020) 'State maternalism: rethinking anarchist readings of the Daodejing.' Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy, 19. pp. 353-369. ISSN 1540-3009

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In this paper we review Western discourse on the relationship between Daoism and anarchist political theory. In particular, we focus on the anarchist reading of Daoism given by Roger Ames, and the more recent contrasting argument against reading Daoism as an anarchism by Alex Feldt. Centring our discussion on the Daodejing 道德經, we argue that, on the one hand, Laozi’s 老子 political theory is less easily reconcilable with anarchist thinking than Ames suggests. On the other hand, we dispute Feldt’s argument that Laozi’s sage-ruler must, of necessity, maintain the capacity for coercive control. Counter to both Ames and Feldt, we suggest that Laozi’s sage-ruler is better framed as a maternal overseer, in contrast to other more paternalistic extrapolations of Daoist thinking, such as that offered in the Hanfeizi 韓非子 韓非子. In reading Laozi's thinking as a form of state “maternalism,” we aim to give a more distinctive voice to the nuances of early Daoist political theory.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Daoism, anarchism, Daodejing 道德經, Laozi’s 老子 political philosophy, Daoist political philosophy, paternalism, maternalism
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Date Deposited: 02 Oct 2019 10:08
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:53
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