Mengzi for the People?

In The Essential Mengzi, I interpreted that Mengzi was a socialist. He believed in order and ruling, but he also believed in giving blame to the rulers, rather than the people. Mengzi said, “They had already done their utmost with the reflection of their hearts, so they went on to use governments that were not unfeeling toward others, and benevolence covered the world” (Mengzi 43). It appeared to be like Mengzi was saying that the people reflect the ruler, if there were problems arising throughout the society, it was possibly because the ruler was not doing their part. If I remember correctly, Mengzi mentioned in the book that if a person in charge cannot lead the people, they should reflect within themselves, rather than reflect upon the people. When Mengzi said, “When ‘gentlemen’ violate righteousness, petty people will flaunt punishments” (Mengzi 43), how can one not think Mengzi was a socialist? He believed in rulers who benefited the community as a whole, which is not a bad thing, but it is definitely different than how other rulers behaved. Mengzi believed human nature came from within, and if a person reflected on their inner good nature, they could transfer it outward. It can be said that he thought human beings were indeed human beings, and he believed in the potential of them. He believed people could be good, if their environment helped them become good, and if they supported their sprouts and helped them grow. Sprouts, are Mengzi’s analogy of human nature, in order for the sprouts to grow strong and healthy, they needed to be nurtured well. In other words, for the people to be good, they have to be raised in a good environment, so they could reach their full potential of being good.  When a person cannot reach their full potential, it is not the person’s fault, but the society in which they are subjected to. A ruler is in charge of the society, therefore the well-being of those in that society should be the ruler’s number one priority, that was what Mengzi believed. Then again, I could be wrong, just my opinion.

1 Thought.

  1. I think your description of what Mengzi believed sounds right! He did say that if the people around you aren’t acting well, you should look to yourself, and this would apply, I think, most especially to a ruler. I don’t have my book with me right now, but from my notes on the text I have that on p. 44 he says that if you love others and they don’t love you, you should check your own benevolence; if you rule others and they are unruly, you should check your wisdom. I also have in my notes that he talks about something similar on p. 52.

    My only question is how this kind of emphasis on oneself in order to influence others, or that the people reflect the ruler, means one can view Mengzi as a socialist. I think the word “socialist” can be somewhat vague, and it’s helpful to define how one is using it, exactly. Consider finding a definition on a university website and seeing if Mengzi’s view fits that, for example! I can see how some people might connect Mengzi’s view with socialism in his focus on the ruler working for the good of the people, but I’m not yet sure how his view that one should be benevolent oneself if one wants benevolence around one (for example) is socialist. A bit more explanation would help!

    On another note, can you activate a plugin that allows those who make comments to check a box to get an email if anyone responds to their comments? Otherwise, the commentator would have to remember to check back to your blog to see if you or anyone else responded (and most of us aren’t going to remember to do that!). When you’re logged into your site, go to the dashboard and find “plugins” on the left menu. Then find one called something like “subscribe to comments,” click “activate,” and you should be good to go!

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