Political Sociology: A Reader

By S. N. Eisenstadt | Go to book overview
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The time has perhaps come when the mirror which anthropologists direct at other societies should be turned back by them on ourselves, when we should try to formulate our own institutions in comparative language, i.e. in a language modified by what we have learnt of different societies, however incomplete it still is. About the difficulty of the task there is no doubt. But this might well be the royal road for the advancement of sociological understanding.


NOTES
1.
See mainly J. Muir, Sanskrit Texts, 2d ed., I, pp. 287 sq., and Keith and Macdonell, Vedic Index, II, pp. 249, 255‐ 256 ; G. Dumézil, Jupiter, Mars, Quirinus, p. 43; E. W. Hopkins, "Ruling Caste," Journ. Amer. Or. Soc., 13, 1889, pp. 57-376; O. C. Cox, Caste, Class and Race, New York, 1948, pp. 102 sq.; also C. Bouglé, Régime des Castes, p. 181.
2.
The main point in this hypothesis is to formulate a relation between two domains or "systems" with which the anthropologist busies himself. One apparent difficulty, which has been cursorily mentioned here itself (p. 59) and in another context (Contrib. V, p. 37, § 3), should perhaps be more explicitly discussed here. It can be objected that the very word of polity (politics, political) comes to us from the Greek polis, and that, even if we lay aside its actual political constitutions, ancient Greece confronts us, in the thought of its philosophers, with a political domain which is neither opposed to religion as a system of ultimate values nor based on the individual. But precisely Greek speculation is markedly different from that of Machiavelli and Hobbes, it differs from it as political philosophy from political science; the one, essentially normative, starts from the society or state, the other, in principle at any rate empirical, starts from the individual. In philosophy as in religion, everything is governed by ultimate values, and this is why Plato's ideal state is a hierarchical society. In other terms, philosophy is, or at any rate begins, within the sphere of religion (or more precisely of ultimate values of the general type), the political domain as the moderns think of it is not yet there. At the same time, philosophy differs from religion in that ultimate values are not given from revelation, tradition or faith, but discovered or established by the sole use of human reason. (There is nothing new here regarding the relation between philosophy and religion, cf. Hegel, Vorlesungen in die Geschichte der Philosophie, ed. Michelet, Stuttgart, 1940 [Sämtliche Werke, Band 16], I, p. 92.) As reason argues in fact through particular men, the recourse to reason could not but lead to the recognition of the individual, as with the Stoics, and with the Moderns reason was to become the weapon of the individual.

It is not passing a value judgement on ancient philosophy, nor denying the part it played in the genesis of the individual in the West, to say that political philosophy, and that of the Greeks in particular, represents on the whole, between the two extremes I have been considering, an intermediary stage in so far as the yardstick it applies to society and state is not the individual but is derived from all-embracing ultimate values, as in the religious sphere. It might then be asked whether it is advisable to define the political sphere as narrowly as I have done. As this is the (dominant) modern conception of it, within which we live, and which the sociologist or anthropologist consciously or not carries with him, I think it is at any rate necessary to distinguish it, under one name or another, if confusion is to be avoided.


d. THE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL STRUCTURE OF
CENTRALIZED EMPIRES

40
Sung Roots of Chinese Political Conservatism:
The Administrative Problems

James T. C. Liu

The Sung period (960-1279), as is generally recognized, shaped the pattern of China's develop‐

ment for the last millennium. Carrying forward the trends originating in late T'ang, it integrated both the traditional and the new ingredients into a distinctive way of life which gradually permeated the entire society down to the level of the average villager. The result was a broadly based, deeply rooted, stable, but conservative culture.1 Remarkable eco

____________________
From James T. C. Liu, "Sung Roots of Chinese Political Conservatism: The Administrative Problems," Journal of Asian Studies, XXVI, No. 3 (May 1967), 457-463. Copyright 1967 by the Association for Asian Studies, Inc. Reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher.

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