Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Mortimer Sellers, Stephan Kirste

Chinese: Legal Thought: The Legalist School

  • Leïla ChoukrouneEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6730-0_92-1


While apparently largely accepted in Chinese philosophy and international scholarship, the term “Legalist” remains controversial if not misleading. The “Legalist school” (fa jia法家) is indeed part of the many schools of thought that have flourished at the end of the Springs and Autumns period (770–453 BCE) and the beginning of the infamous Warring States (453–221 BCE) when a major political crisis was threatening the integrity of the State. The Legalist school of thought does not relate to one particular individual as in the case of Confucius 孔子 (551–479 BCE) or Mozi 墨子 (ca. 460–390 BCE), but to a variety of intellectual productions which were later gathered and coined as “Legalist” during the Han 漢dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE). The Legalists departure from the past and previous intellectual traditions as well as their unique approach to the law in the construction of a strong, centralized, and rather repressive State has often been analyzed as one of the first Chinese...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Professor of International Law and Research and Innovation Theme Director, Portsmouth University (UK)MaastrichtNetherlands

Section editors and affiliations

  • Patricia Mindus
    • 1
  • Sebastian Andres Reyes Molina
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden