Down by Dao...

Down by Dao...

Ying-yang anyone?

Daoism has been discussed on this site with little fanfare before. At best it’s a historical account of libertarian utopian thinking amongst a scholar-class in early China, signalling a move into dialectical reasoning, at worst it’s a form of mysticism lending itself to new age gibberish.

I can't help but feel the later view is a perverse over-reaction. Even Rocker acknowledge some due credence and tries to assess the way libertarian ideas held their sway in particular ages;

"Anarchist ideas are to be found in every period of known history, although there still remains a good deal of work for historical work in this field. We encounter them in the Chinese sage, Lao-Tse (The Course and The Right Way) and in the later Greek philosophers, the Hedonists and Cynics and other advocates of so-called "natural right," and in particular in Zeno who, at the opposite pole from Plato, founded the Stoic school. They found expression in the teaching of the Gnostic, Karpocrates, in Alexandria, and had an unmistakable influence on certain Christian sects of the Middle Ages in France, Germany and Holland, almost all of which fell victims to the most savage persecutions." – Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-syndicalism

I have recently put together a review for Freedom of John A. Rapps book on Daoism and Anarchism - Daoism and Anarchism: Critiques of State Autonomy in Ancient and Modern China which came out in October. I won’t bother repeating any part of the review here, but interestingly, Rapp invites a comparison between Zhuangzi and Kropotkin, since both stresses “a natural or spontaneous order in the universe that exists without human intervention” which I think bears repeating.

The hundred joints, the nine openings, the six organs, all come together and exist here [as my body]. But which part should I feel closest to? I should delight in all parts, you say? But there must be one I ought to favour more. If not, are they all of them mere servants? But if they are all servants, then how can they keep order among themselves? Or do they take turns being lord and servant? It would seem as though there must be some True Lord among them. But whether I succeed in discovering his identity or not, neither adds to nor detracts from the truth.” – Zhuangzi

“thus the centre, the origin of force, formerly transferred from the earth to the sun, now turns out to be scattered and disseminated. It is everywhere and nowhere.” – Kropotkin, Anarchism: Its Philosphy and Ideal