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Topic: Review of "The Governments of the Qin and Han Empires"  (Read 21472 times)
MuslimInDeed
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« on: August 08, 2007, 12:18:41 PM »

Assalaam Malaikum fellow thinkers friendly to Islam and History!

You might find this article useful.

I found this following book review online:

"I have to convey to readers my surprise with the conclusions of author Michael Loewe [his book is quite useful as the source of specific information on the deliberations and characters of Chinese History of Government - with anecdotes from recently translated and re-examined uncovered writings]. The failing of this book is that it is very narrow-minded when it comes to interpreting the presented information in any broader historical sense. Here is where the Western political science indoctrination shows its mark on the mind of Mr. Loewe.

It is unpleasant to feel, after reading through some interesting chapters on the the structure of the Qin and Western Han empires that explain through specific examples Chinese foresight and expertise in running their world always with an eye to future value, and find that the author himself did not draw any significant conclusion from his own work but instead persists in stereotypical myopia shown in the statements quoted below which reveals a profound lack of historical thinking in the concluding chapters of this book.

The author obviously is intrigued by the refined courtly etiquette and partly superfluous repetitiveness of forms that pervade the stalemated Chinese History after Qin. A comparable period in the West has only just begun - and perhaps he could be excused on that basis for his pro-Western bias based on incorrect comparisons. One should not compare Plato (who was not 'Western' any more than he was 'Arabian') with his nonexistence in the Chinese History - but Marx and Mozi, Hohenstaufen and Zhou dynasties. Each Culture must be treated deference as a unique phenomenon within whom however certain universal tendencies are immanent. Only a true expert of World-as-History would be able however to discern those and make proper comparisons. There are hardly any in an atmosphere of self-serving political agenda in which democracy is seen as the ultimate purpose of all existence [a neo-Marxist strain that is woven into the fabric of the ruling political democratism ideology in the West].

..attempts to explain his suspicions of why ancient China lacked the Western concepts of justice - as if there is only one road that leads to one sense of justice - betrays a true lack of imagination] which is evident from the following quote/remark:

"IN intellectual terms, exercises in defining and explaining the values, needs and forms of government had reached a far more sophisticated level in the West than in the East, where a Plato, Aristotle or Cicero had yet to rise."

And what of Confucius, Mencius, Xunzi, Mozi, Laozi, deep thinkers like Han Fei, Lord Shang, Li Si, Fan Sui - how do they compare sophistication-wise to a practical weakling like Cicero?? For one, Loewe should not have jumped to such a conclusion without demonstrating his expertise on comparable ancient Chinese political thought.

What purpose does it serve to interpret History on the basis of such late 20th century sociological superiority complex as Mr. Loewe displays in this book [but it is not his fault - he is merely a product of an imperialist political system that distorted the historical thought to the point of condescension of all outside systems].

It must not be forgotten that every Civilization has its own different emphasis [this has to be recognized for once!], for example, Chinese record-keeping, wandering view of Nature, and a sense of past cannot even remotely compare to anything the Greeks and the Romans produced, and vice-versa [these same oligarchic but 'democratic' Classical peoples whose religious cults of city-gods were a normal part of every day secular political life!], obsessed as they had been with 'the here and the now' [carpe diem] allowing even Julius Caesar to boast in all innocence that he is a descendant of gods [and of Venus], unable to produce an accurate annual calendar for any city-state until Caesar commissioned Sosigenes of Alexandria to create the Julian Calendar, etc. But, as long as the ancient Chinese had an inferior political system to the contemporary Classical Greeks who could never run a large and well-functioning state....whatever..

[that Mr. Loewe also ignores and contradicts Aristotle's and Plato's principled hatred for Greek democracy (placed at the lowest political scale) I suppose is besides the point in Mr. Loewe's argument... How can an unabashed ruler like Plato's favorite tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse compare to even a mediocre Chinese emperor in the point of state responsibility?]. The state structure of the numerous little nation-states of the Classical civilization was point-of-place-bound and managed ad-hoc - while even the weakest Chinese far-flung state was run like a ship-of-the-line in the sea of time.

Democracy is just an idea [exaggerated beyond all proportion to its real place in History] that is not even structurally the same between its only ancient example and the modern Western one [let alone in the practical domain of propaganda manipulation of the masses upon which Democratism is dependent unlike the Chinese one which was based on respect for the top more than the bottom of society, and it was Culturally rooted more than conceptually].

That is why it is a necessity - to treat the historical unknowns in a comprehensive way - so as not to allow the error of presumption of conceptual superiority to the exclusion of other concepts equally historically valid but alien to the historian's own thinking. In this sense Mr. Loewe failed to pass the test of objectivity.

In another spot Mr. Loewe [on page 119], in by now DE RIGEUR fashion, spills another bean of his narrow thought when he claims:

"Nor did those rulers [Chinese emperors] enjoy the benefits of theoretical or analytical writings such as those of Plato, Aristotle or Cicero."

For all his narrow-expertise on surviving Chinese writings from the Qin and Han periods - Loewe demonstrated a lack of knowledge of Legalist Classics.

Legalist and Confucian schools of ideology formed themselves [corresponding in influence levels to the Classical Stoic and Epicurean-Sophist schools of ideas] their thinkers have indeed exercised an extremely profound influence, visionary immigrants to the Qin state - intellectual men of resolute action like Lord Shang, Fan Ju, Li Si and the aristocratic Chinese Metternich Han Fei the epigon of Legalism. Their thought exercised influence far longer in the course of historic time than the ideas of Aristotle and Plato - simply because the Chinese, unlike their Classical "Western" counterparts, managed to find ways to perpetuate their civilization, not without interruption, for 2 millennia.

M. Loewe has simply proven with his book that he is a candidate for Oxford historian Sir Charles Oman's "Vulgarisateur" category of historians [from his 1939 book "On the Writing of History"]. It would have been better for his legacy is Mr. Loewe confined his writing to the domain of narrow-expertise - which is where the FORTE of this book undoubtedly is - rather than venture into uncharted waters with a malfunctioning compass.

Lord Shang, a profound Legalist thinker said:

"One cannot plan with the people the beginning of an affair, one can only rejoice with them in its completion."

No less a Western thinker than Otto von Bismarck certainly felt the validity of this statement all his life. There is nothing more profound in the laboratory of life that is History than the clear-cut proof wrought out of significant living experience in the form of a practical confirmation of a philosophic postulate, such as the one above, because popularity came to Bismarck only when his major work of German unification was completed, that is - when he no longer needed the people's sanction. This is true of every significant Man of Fact."
« Last Edit: August 19, 2007, 07:12:49 PM by Seneca » Report to moderator   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2007, 06:48:34 PM »

I think one ought to re-write that as follows:

Author Michael Loewe's book is quite useful as the source of specific information on the deliberations and characters of Chinese History of Government - with anecdotes from recently translated and re-examined uncovered writings. The failing of this book is that it is very narrow-minded when it comes to interpreting the presented information in any broader historical sense. Here is where the Western political science indoctrination shows its mark on the mind of Mr. Loewe.

It is unpleasant to feel, after reading through some interesting chapters on the the structure of the Qin and Western Han empires that explain through specific examples Chinese foresight and expertise in running their world always with an eye to future value, and find that the author himself did not draw any significant conclusion from his own work but instead persists in a misunderstanding shown in the statements quoted below which reveals a lack of historical thinking in the concluding chapters of this book.

The author obviously is intrigued by the refined courtly etiquette and partly superfluous repetitiveness of forms that pervade the stalemated Chinese History after Qin. A comparable period in the West has only just begun - and perhaps he could be excused on that basis for his pro-Western bias based on incorrect comparisons. One should not compare Plato (who was not 'Western' any more than he was 'Arabian') with his nonexistence in the Chinese History - but Marx and Mozi, Hohenstaufen and Zhou dynasties. Each Culture must be treated deference as a unique phenomenon within whom however certain universal tendencies are immanent. Only a true expert of World-as-History would be able however to discern those and make proper comparisons. There are hardly any in an atmosphere of self-serving political agenda in which democracy is seen as the ultimate purpose of all existence, a post-modernist 'be all - end all' [a leftist strain that is woven into the fabric of the ruling political democratism ideology in the West] - which reveals the poverty of political thought.

..attempts to explain his suspicions of why ancient China lacked the Western concepts of justice - as if there is only one road that leads to one sense of justice - betrays a true lack of imagination] which is evident from the following quote/remark:

"IN intellectual terms, exercises in defining and explaining the values, needs and forms of government had reached a far more sophisticated level in the West than in the East, where a Plato, Aristotle or Cicero had yet to rise."

And what of Confucius, Mencius, Xunzi, Mozi, Laozi, deep thinkers like Han Fei, Lord Shang, Li Si, Fan Sui - how do they compare sophistication-wise to a practical weakling like Cicero?? For one, Loewe should not have jumped to such a conclusion without demonstrating his expertise on comparable ancient Chinese political thought.

What purpose does it serve to interpret History on the basis of such late 20th century sociological superiority obsession as Mr. Loewe displays in this book?

It must not be forgotten that every Civilization has its own different emphasis [this has to be recognized for once!], for example, Chinese record-keeping, wandering view of Nature, and a sense of past cannot even remotely compare to anything the Greeks and the Romans produced, and vice-versa [these same oligarchic but 'democratic' Classical peoples whose religious cults of city-gods were a normal part of every day secular political life!], obsessed as they had been with 'the here and the now' [carpe diem] allowing even Julius Caesar to boast in all innocence that he is a descendant of gods [and of Venus], unable to produce an accurate annual calendar for any city-state until Caesar commissioned Sosigenes of Alexandria to create the Julian Calendar, etc. But, as long as the ancient Chinese had an inferior political system to the contemporary Classical Greeks who could never run a large and well-functioning state....MOVIE "300" TO THE RESCUE!!! The Chinese must be the evil easterners of '300'

[that Mr. Loewe also ignores and contradicts Aristotle's and Plato's principled hatred for Greek democracy (placed at the lowest political scale) I suppose is besides the point in Mr. Loewe's argument... How can an unabashed ruler like Plato's favorite tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse compare to even a mediocre Chinese emperor in the point of state responsibility?]. The state structure of the numerous little nation-states of the Classical civilization was point-of-place-bound and managed ad-hoc - while even the weakest Chinese far-flung state was run like a ship-of-the-line in the sea of time.

Democracy is just an idea [exaggerated beyond all proportion to its real place in History] that is not even structurally the same between its only ancient example and the modern Western one [let alone in the practical domain of propaganda manipulation of the masses upon which Democratism is dependent unlike the Chinese one which was based on respect for the top more than the bottom of society, and it was Culturally rooted more than conceptually].

That is why it is a necessity - to treat the historical unknowns in a comprehensive way - so as not to allow the error of presumption of conceptual superiority to the exclusion of other concepts equally historically valid but alien to the historian's own thinking. In this sense Mr. Loewe failed to pass the test of objectivity.

In another spot Mr. Loewe [on page 119], in by now DE RIGEUR fashion, spills another bean of his narrow thought when he claims:

"Nor did those rulers [Chinese emperors] enjoy the benefits of theoretical or analytical writings such as those of Plato, Aristotle or Cicero."

For all his narrow-expertise on surviving Chinese writings from the Qin and Han periods - Loewe demonstrated a lack of knowledge of Legalist Classics whom he apparently does not deem worthy of democratic ideologues and apologists.

Legalist and Confucian schools of ideology formed themselves [corresponding in influence levels to the Classical Stoic and Epicurean-Sophist schools of ideas] their thinkers have indeed exercised an extremely profound influence, visionary immigrants to the Qin state - intellectual men of resolute action like Lord Shang, Fan Ju, Li Si and the aristocratic Chinese Metternich Han Fei the epigon of Legalism. Their thought exercised influence far longer in the course of historic time than the ideas of Aristotle and Plato - simply because the Chinese, unlike their Classical "Western" counterparts, managed to find ways to perpetuate their civilization, not without interruption, for 2 millennia.

M. Loewe is a competitive candidate for Oxford historian Sir Charles Oman's "Vulgarisateur" category of historians [from his 1939 book "On the Writing of History"] - a place he shares with, among others, Victor Davis Hanson. It would have been better for his legacy if Mr. Loewe confined his writing to the domain of narrow-expertise - which is where the FORTE of this book undoubtedly is - rather than venture into uncharted waters with a malfunctioning compass."

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