Ideas of Social Order in the Ancient World

Ideas of Social Order in the Ancient World

Ideas of Social Order in the Ancient World

Ideas of Social Order in the Ancient World

Synopsis

Harle focuses on the perennial issue of social order by providing a comparative analysis of ideas of social order in classical Chinese political philosophy, the Indian epic and political literature, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, classical Greek and Roman political thought, and early Christianity. His analysis is based on the religious, political, and literary texts that represent their respective civilizations as both their major achievements and sources of shared values.

Excerpt

The comparative analysis of ideas concerning social order in classical Chinese political philosophy, the Indian epic and political literature, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, classical Greek and Roman political thought, and early Christianity suggests that there are two major approaches to establishing and maintaining social order in human relations, both between individuals and within and between various social groups: moral principles and political power. According to the first approach, if and when people follow strict moral principles, the relations between them will be orderly and harmonious. According to the second approach, orderly relations can only be based on the application of power by the ruler over the ruled.

The first approach gives an exclusive role to individual human beings, who are presupposed to govern themselves by simply following the moral principles--orderly human relations and subtle forms of societies become possible without any political structures. The second approach does not believe in voluntary arrangements, but requires humankind to be organized in a group or groups in order to establish a feasible political government, without which no order is possible. To apply a convenient expression to the suggested distinction between "self-government by men over themselves in the light of moral principles" and "the use of power by the ruler over the ruled," I shall hereafter refer to principle-oriented and power-oriented patterns of social order.

The suggested basic distinction between principle-oriented and power-oriented patterns can be found in an analogous form within the latter group. According to some views, all politics must be based on and strictly follow moral principles, while other views exclude moral norms from politics. This debate concerning the nature of politics is so fundamental that it seems to include the suggested distinction of the principleoriented and the power-oriented patterns. However, I wish to emphasize the possibility of social order without any political organization and to distinguish between two types of moral rule (one excluding politics and the other trying to make politics moral). On the other hand, I am fully aware that my distinctions are analytical. Politics as . . .

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