A “Total War”? Rethinking Military Ideology in the Book of Lord Shang

Yuri Pines


The Book of Lord Shang, which is commonly identified as a major work of the so-called Legalist school, is also an important—and much neglected—treatise in the history of Chinese military thought. Beyond specific recommendations concerning both defensive and offensive warfare, the book presents a coherent vision of the state that should restructure its socioeconomic and cultural policies so as to turn every man into a valiant soldier. The book epitomizes the ideology of “total war,” in which the differences between civilian and military affairs are blurred. The society is profoundly militarized; the army, in turn, is profoundly bureaucratized. My paper explores military thought of the Book of Lord Shang, focusing on its views of mobilization, of indoctrination of the soldiers, of military discipline, of rules of military engagement, and of military command. I furthermore deal with the question of why the book’s military ideology was all but neglected after the end of the Han dynasty.


Book of Lord Shang, mass armies, military thought, Warring States

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12957/nearco.2020.57703


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Direitos autorais 2021 NEARCO - Revista Eletrônica de Antiguidade e Medievo

Licença Creative Commons
Esta obra está licenciada sob uma licença Creative Commons Atribuição - NãoComercial 4.0 Internacional.

Licença Creative Commons

Este obra está licenciado com uma Licença Creative Commons Atribuição-NãoComercial 4.0 Internacional.