By W. H. Walsh
Creation to the character of ancient clarification
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Additional resources for An Introduction to the Philosophy of History
Second, in a great number of its usages, the concept of empire has already been placed in a relationship of absolute opposition to the nation-state and even to modernity itself, and thus the designation of “empire” assumes in advance that Chinese society and culture is sealed off from the outside world, autocratic, and backward. Regarding the first point, many scholars who research the comparative history of empires have conceded that Chinese dynasties utilize Confucian scholars and the gentry class as a unique set 35 36 China from Empire to Nation-State of intermediaries, and that in the process of “kingly transformation,” “culture” plays a far more powerful role than military conquest.
An unavoidable question remains, however: Since modern China was established on the historical foundations laid by the Qing dynasty, how are we to understand the continuities between “empire” (diguo) and “nation” (minzu)? After his systematic inquiry into the meanings of the term “empire,” Dominic Lieven concluded: Over the last two millennia the word “empire” has meant many different things to different people from different countries at different times. Indeed it has often had different meanings to people from the same country at the same time.
The long-term historical perspective has provided a kind of anti-Smithian framework and also critiques the empire/nation-state binary established by nineteenth- Two Narratives of China and Their Derivative Forms century political economy in two ways: first, it demolishes the judgments that classical liberalism makes about empires in its self-affirmation of modern society. Those judgments include the following: imperial control is fundamentally characterized by violence and, therefore, does not create favorable conditions for industrial production, and only modern society (the nation and civil society) is capable of relying on a system of production, circulation of commodities, and division of labor as described by Smith.
An Introduction to the Philosophy of History by W. H. Walsh