Abstract. Non-action (wu wei) as a political principle. The Art of Ruling in Lao Zi and Confucius
To establish non-action as a political principle sounds like a contradiction to Western trained minds, since action is what underpins politics in the first place. In classical Chinese philosophy, however, wu wei (无为) was an ideal of political theory, recommended as a remedy for the urgent problems of the Zhou dynasties to restore social and political order. The principle is not only found in the Dao De Jing, a primarily political treatise attributed to Lao Zi. It also plays a central role in the discussions of the Kong Zi (Confucius) or in legalistic texts (e.g. the Han Fei Zi) of the pre-Qin dynasties.
In my work I will focus on the concept of wu wei in Lao Zi and Confucius. It will be explained to what extent the translation of the term with “non-action” is at least problematic and remains incomprehensible without considering the metaphysical context (such as the concepts of dao 道 or zi ran 自然). Two readings become clear, on the one hand the Confucian version of moral cultivation, on the other hand the more anarchistic version of philosophical Daoism.
Contrary to an equation with Western concepts, e.g. an ultraliberal laissez-faire state, the difference between a Confucian and a Daoist understanding of wu wei is to be developed and an attempt made to connect to contemporary discourses of political theory by means of a psychoanalytical (Lacanian) approach.