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Authority without Authenticity: The Zhuangzi's Genuine Pretending as Socio-Political Strategy

Paul D'Ambrosio, Hans-Georg Moeller
2018 Religions  
In this paper, we present a socio-political reading of the Zhuangzi based in part on a brief review of contemporary Chinese scholarship on the text. We will argue that the approach to dealing with authority in the Zhuangzi can be summarized by the phrase "externally transforming without transforming internally". When applied to situations where the individual engages with political or social authority, this idea commends the art of retaining a non-conforming and non-committed internal state
more » ... internal state while, to an extent, conforming to external circumstances and committing to certain actions. In this way the Zhuangzi not only aims at ensuring safety in potentially dangerous encounters with authority, but also the avoidance of "authenticating" authority. Following the language and logic of the Zhuangzi, the emphasis is on "forgetting (wang 忘)", "losing (sang 桑)", and "negating (wu 無)" one's social self, rather than constructing or discovering an "authentic self" that might ultimately only reify authority. We will refer to the Zhuangzi's strategy in terms of what we call "genuine pretending".
doi:10.3390/rel9120398 fatcat:6huqsrznobgkrlzbntxxihuf5a