"To Follow the Way and Not One's Lord": Intellectuals and Empire Foramtion in Axial-Age China

Xi, Yuan, Sociology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Kumar, Krishan, AS-Sociology, University of Virginia

How did Confucianism, a once marginalized school of thought, survive in the intensive intellectual competitions and brutal wars in pre-imperial China, and why did Confucianism, rather than other schools, finally become the hegemonical ideology of the Chinese empire? Previously sociological scholarship on early China mainly focused on how wars interplayed with state formation. For those who did analyze culture, intellectuals were treated either as passive carriers of ideologies, waiting to be selected by rulers when they were thought of as useful assistants, or as individual competitors in an isolated intellectual field, striving for attention space. By contrast, I aim to examine the distinct organizational forms and political participation modes of scholars of different schools, in order to understand why Confucianism was more resilient and durable than other schools whose ideas were equally robust, inclusive, and malleable. My study will advance two research agendas: Axial Age and ancient empires, and intellectuals and politics. An intra-civilizational comparative approach will be added to the former, whereas a theory of the intersection of modes of political participation and forms of intellectual collectives will be contributed to the latter. I plan to combine primary and secondary sources to trace the biographies of intellectuals and focus on the dialogues that happened between intellectuals and politicians and teachers and students. Besides, I will also focus on how intellectuals commented on and intervened in politics.

MA (Master of Arts)
sociology of intellectuals , power and knowledge, Axial Age, Chinese Empire, Hundred Schools of Thought, social change
Issued Date: