The Politicization of the Dao
The Way of Wuwei

The way gives them life;
Virtue [Inner Power (de)] rears them;
Things give them shape;
Circumstances bring them to maturity.

Therefore the myriad creatures all revere the way and honour virtue. Yet the way is revered and virtue honoured not because this is decreed by any authority but because it is natural for them to be treated so.

Thus the way gives them life and rears them;
Brings them up and nurses them;
Brings them to fruition and maturity;
Feeds and shelters them.   
It gives them life yet claims no possession;
It benefits them yet exacts no gratitude;
It is the steward yet exercises no authority.
Such is called the mysterious virtue [or “mysterious power”].

(Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching, 112)

Sociopolitical Solution #1
“Individualist” Perspective

Yao wanted to cede the empire to Hsü Yu. “When the sun and moon have already come out,” he said, “it’s a waste of light to go on burning the torches, isn’t it? When the seasonal rains are falling, it’s a waste of water to go on irrigating the fields. If you took the throne, the world would be well ordered. I go on occupying it, but all I can see are my failings. I beg to turn over the world to you.” Hsü Yu said, “You govern the world and the world is already well governed. Now if I take your place, will I be doing it for a name? But name is only the guest of reality — will I be doing it so I can play the part of a guest? When the tailorbird builds her nest in the deep wood, she uses no more than one branch. When the mole drinks at the river, he takes no more than a bellyful. Go home and forget the matter, my lord. I have no use for the rulership of the world!
Though the cook may not run his kitchen properly, the priest and the impersonator of the dead at the sacrifice do not leap over the wine casks and sacrificial stands and go take his place.” (Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings, 26-7)

What is softest in the world
Overcomes what is hardest in the world.
No-thing penetrates where there is no space.
Thus I know that in doing nothing there is advantage.
The wordless teaching and the advantage of doing nothing [wuwei]
there are few in the world who understand them.
Sources of Chinese Tradition, 89)

Devotion to learning means increasing day by day;
Devotion to the Way means decreasing day by day.
Decreasing, and decreasing still more,
one arrives at doing nothing.

And in doing nothing, nothing remains undone.
If one would take control of all-under-Heaven
one should always refrain from activity;

One who is engaged in activity
is unworthy to control all-under-Heaven.

(Sources of Chinese Tradition, 89-90)

The Way is constant: by doing nothing,
nothing is left undone (wu wei er wu bu wei).
If lords and kings can hold to it, all things will,
of themselves, be transformed.
If, as they are transformed, desires arise,
I suppress them by means of
the nameless uncarved wood.
From the nameless uncarved wood
comes absence of desire,

Through not desiring one becomes tranquil,
And the empire, of itself, becomes settled.

(Sources of Chinese Tradition, 87)

Sociopolitical Solution #3
The “Primitivist” Perspective

Do not exalt the worthy,
and the people will not compete.
Do not value goods that are hard to come by,
and the people will not steal.
Do not display objects of desire,
and the people’s minds will not be disturbed.
Therefore the ordering of the sage empties their minds,
fills their bellies,
weakens their ambitions,
strengthens their bones.
He always causes the people to be
without knowledge, without desire,

And causes the wise ones [i.e. “those who know”]
not to dare to act.

He does nothing (wuwei),
and there is nothing that is not brought to order.
Sources of Chinese Tradition, 80-81)

Do away with sageliness, discard knowledge,
And the people will benefit a hundredfold.
Do away with humaneness, discard rightness,
And the people will once more be filial and loving,
Dispense with cleverness, discard profit,
And there will be no more bandits and thieves.
These three, to be regarded as ornaments,
are insufficient.

Therefore let the people have something to cling to:
Manifest plainness,
Embrace uncarved wood,
Diminish selfishness,
Reduce desires.

(Sources of Chinese Tradition, 84-5)
The Ideal Primitivist State
Chapter 80

Let the state be small and the people be few.
There may be ten or even a hundred times as many implements,
But they should not be used.
Let the people, regarding death as a weighty matter,
not travel far.

Though they have boats and carriages, none shall ride in them.
Though they have armor and weapons, none shall display them.
Let the people return once more to the use of knotted ropes.
Let them savor their food and find beauty in their clothing,
peace in their dwellings, and joy in their customs.

Though neighboring states are within sight of one another,
And the sound of cocks and dogs is audible from one to the other,
People will reach old age and death and yet not visit one another.
Sources of Chinese Tradition, 94)