One of the main problems faced by the leaders of the Warring States was recruitment into the civil service. During the aristocratic spring and autumn, the overwhelming majority of civil servants were descended from hereditary ministerial lines; Only exceptionally could foreigners join the government. This situation changed in the fifth century BC. A.D., when aristocratic lines were largely eliminated in internal struggles and members of the petty nobility – the so-called Shia “men of service” – were able to ascend to the head of the bureaucracy. At that time, the new meritocratic discourse of “elevation of the worthy” (shang xian 尚賢) spread and upward social mobility became legitimate (Pines 2013c). But who the “worthy” were and how to determine their dignity was a matter of considerable uncertainty and confusion. While some texts have shown very sophisticated ways of recognizing the true value of the employee (Richter 2005), their recommendations required exceptional insight on the part of an employer and were largely unworkable. Instead, the most popular type of recruitment was based on a notion of “recognition” of one`s own worth (Henry 1987): an employee was recommended to the leader (or senior official), interviewed, and then his or her value was “recognized” and assigned to a senior position. This widespread practice has been deeply opposed by legalists. The very idea of relying on the vague notion of “dignity” and on the personal impression of the leader as the main means of recruitment was, in their view, fundamentally flawed, since it allowed for multiple manipulations. Shang Yang explains why “dignity” is an inherently problematic concept because of his own reputation: Originally from Wei, the state`s prime minister, Qin Shang Yang or Gongsun Yang, embarked on a “comprehensive plan to eliminate the hereditary aristocracy.” He drew boundaries between private factions and the central and royal state, addressing the issue of meritocratic appointment: “To favor one`s own parents is to use self-interest as one`s path, while what is equal only prevents selfishness from progressing.” [105] One of the famous controversial dictates in the Book of Lord Shang states: “When the people are weak, the state is strong; therefore, the state that owns the way is doomed to the weakening of the people” (Shang jun shu 20:121; Book of Lord Shang 20.1). Elsewhere, the text specifies: among men, each one acts for himself.

If you try to change them and get them to act for you, then there will be no one you can reach and employ. In situations where people are unable to act in their own self-interest, the above will not employ them. Employ people for their own [interests], do not employ them for your good; then there will be no one you cannot use (Shenzi, 24-25; Harris, 2016: 112). Poems, documents, rites, music, goodness, self-cultivation, benevolence, righteousness, quarrels, prudence: if the state has these ten, the superiors [the people] cannot defend themselves and fight. If the state is governed according to these ten, then when the state arrives, it will certainly be dismembered, and if the enemy does not arrive, the state will certainly be impoverished. If the state annihilates these ten, then the enemy will not dare to arrive, and even if he does, he will certainly be repulsed; If an army is raised and sent into a campaign, it will surely conquer [the enemy`s land]; If the army is restrained and does not attack, the state will certainly be rich. (Shang jun shu 3:23; Lord of Shang Book 3.5) During the Qin Dynasty, all books that did not support legalistic philosophy were burned, and writers, philosophers, and teachers of other philosophies were executed. The excesses of legalism of the Qin Dynasty made the regime very unpopular with the people of the time. After the fall of Qin, legalism was abandoned in favor of Confucianism, which significantly influenced the development of Chinese culture.

Shen Dao presents his political credo with rare clarity. A leader is crucial to the proper functioning of the political system; It is the very foundation of the political order, not a beneficiary but a servant of humanity. Significantly, the ruler obtains these blessed results by the mere fact of his existence and not by his morality or intelligence. As Shen Dao makes clear, bad laws are better than a lawless situation, and we can conclude that a bad leader is better than anarchy. What counts, as Shen Dao explains elsewhere, are not the individual qualities of the leader, but his ability to maintain his “positional power” (or “power of authority”, shi勢). As long as the leader keeps his power intact, that is, by not delegating it to ministers and keeping the singularity of decision-making in his hands, the political system will function well. Otherwise, turbulence is inevitable. Shen Dao warns: Therefore, my teaching makes those among the people who seek advantages to obtain them nowhere else but in tillage, and those who want to avoid evil do not flee anywhere else but in war. Within the borders, everyone in the people devotes himself first to agriculture and war, and only then receives what he wants.

Although the area is small, grain is abundant, and although there are few people, the army is powerful. Those who are able to implement these two within borders will complete the path of hegemony and monarch. (Shang jun shu 25:139; Book Lord Shang 25:5) Teaching people to “sing and sing only about war” could easily refer to military indoctrination as we see in other countries that have used mass armies. But Lord Shang`s book never talks about, for example. the cult of the martial spirit, the dehumanization of the enemy, the identification of martial life with masculinity and similar means used elsewhere in militarist education. On the contrary, for Shang Yang and other contributors to “his” book, “teaching” simply means people`s internalization of the fact that the only way to satisfy their desires for wealth and glory is to excel in war. Hence the war, which elsewhere in the book is openly associated with what people hate (Shang jun shu 18:108; Lord Shang 18:2) becomes the center of people`s aspirations. “Teaching” is not a question of ideological indoctrination; It is just a matter of deliberate adherence to government policy. In 1975, A.F.P.

Hulsewé wrote: “[Shang Yang and Han Fei] were not so much interested in the content of laws as in their use as a political tool. Mainly criminal laws and a reward system were the two “handles”. [322] In 1982, Arthur Waley contrasted what he called realists in China with other schools: realists, he said, largely ignored the individual and considered the goal of each society to be the domination of other societies,[323] In his 1989 book “Disputers of the Tao,” Angus Charles Graham titled his chapter “Legalist” “Legalism: an amoral science of the art of governing”, Sketching the foundations of an “amoral science” of Chinese thought, largely based on Han Feizi, consisting of “adapting institutions to changing situations and removing precedents if necessary; concentration of power in the hands of the ruler; and, above all, the control of the fragmented bureaucracy.” [140]: 267 [324] Wherever name (reputation) and utility meet, the people will go in that direction. Agriculture is what people consider bitter; War is what people consider dangerous.