Korean Society: Civil Society, Democracy, and the State

By Charles K. Armstrong | Go to book overview

3


The genealogy of Confucian Moralpolitik and its implications for modern civil society

SangJun Kim

Prologue

how readily the priestly system of valuations can branch off from the aristocratic and develop into its opposite. An occasion for such a division is furnished whenever the priest caste and the warrior caste jealously clash with one another and find themselves unable to come to terms.

Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals

This chapter 1 is, most of all, an attempt to understand the uniqueness of Confucian politics. Confucians, as carriers of the most this-worldly religion, opposed both the mystic-nihilist solution of worldly problems as well as the dualist solution to the problem of theodicy. Their solution was a rigid this-worldly Moralpolitik. 2

In his highly ambivalent Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche defined the “civilized mind, ” as the product of the priests' vengeful war against the superior worldly power of the warrior caste. In this chapter, I will interpret Confucian politics in Nietzschean terms, as the war waged between the priestly power of Confucians and the princely power of their rulers. Nietzsche suggested that the “impotent” priestly caste used morals as its weapon in its war against the “superior” warrior caste. I submit that the quasi-priestly Confucians also adopted morality as their weapon in their struggle against their rulers. I thus contest the interpretations of Confucianism by many prominent Western scholars - from Montesquieu, via Hegel and Marx, to Weber - as a doctrine submissive to the worldly power of the ruler. Confucianism in opposition to the arbitrary actions of the rulers was subversive rather than submissive in nature. The common historical instances of Confucian courage and martyrdom demonstrate the Confucians' readiness to criticize, even unto death, their ruler's arbitrariness.

Nietzsche's historical distinction between warrior and priest represents a conceptual distinction between two sorts of power: on the one hand, “innocent, ”“spontaneous, ”“natural, ”“sin-free, ”“noble-savage” use of dominating power, and on the other hand, the “ascetic, ”“reflective, ”“bad-conscious, ”

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