The great document of Taoist anarchism, if we are all allow the name to this generally paternalistic doctrine, is a block of four essays in Chuang-tzu which we call 'Primitivist'. These are the chapters which, except for the 'Inner Chapters' by Chuang-tzu himself, stand out from the rest of the book as most idiosyncratic in style and thought. It so happens that they can be dated with unusual precision, placing them in a historical setting which helps us to relate the Utopian myth to real demands to contract the scope of government. The Primitivist wrtoe after the destruction of the state of Ch'i in 221 B.C. which completed the Ch'in reunification, and the time of disunion in which he wrties can only be the brief interregnum of 209 -202B.C. between the fall of the Ch'in dynasty and the final vitory of the Han. The philosophers, silenced under the unquely repressive regime of Ch'in, are already re-emerging to compete for influence. The Primitivist's great fear is that the Legalist tyranny of Ch'in has gone only to be replaced by the moralistic tyranny of Confucians or Mohists.
Morality, says the Primitivists, is useless in ordering society, because it serves whoever wins power. Its rules are like the boxes and bolts with which we try to secure possessions against thieves; a strong enough thief carries off the whole box and only worries that the bolts will not hold. It is the same with the state; witness Ch'in which was so perfectly run.
"However in one morning, T'ien Ch'eng killed the lord of Ch'i and stole his state. Nor was it only the state he stole; he stole it complete with all its wise and sagely laws. So T'ien Ch'eng has gone on having the reputation of a thief and bandit, yet the man himself lived as secure as Yao or Shun; small states did not dare to condemn, great states did not dare to punish, and for tweleve generations his house possessed the state of Ch'i. Then isn't it on the contrary taht he stole the state of Ch'i complete with all its wise and sagely laws and used them to keep safe his robbing, thieving self?"
In any case morality is necessary for the organisation of crime.
"So when one of Robber Chih's band asked him 'Do robers too have the Way?", Chih answered
"'Where can you go unless you have the Way? A shrewd guess at where the things are hidden in the house is the sage's intuitiveness. Being first man in is courage. Being last man out is righteousness. Knowing whether or not you can bring it off is wisdom. Giving everyone fair share is benevolence. Without the five at his disposal, no one in the world could ever make a great robber.'
"Judging by this, without the Way of the Sage the good man would not stand, without the Way of the Sage Robber Chih would not walk. If the good men in the world are fewer than the bad, the sages have benefited the world less than they have harmed it. With the birth of the sages the great robbers arise. Smash the sages, turn the thieves and bandits loose, and for the first time the world will be in order."
Morality only puts you in the service of the robber....
The Primitivist's furious attacks on sagehood, wisdom and knowledge may seem to make him an exception to our generalisation that even Taoists value not the spontaneous as such , but the reaction with a clear vision of the object. But as with Taoists generally the attack is on kinds of knowledge conceived as interfering with awareness. The Primitivist identifies man's Potency with the powers of the senses and heart in their primitive purity, when the eye is not dazzled by "greens and yellows and multicoloured vestments", the ear by "instruments of bronze and stone and silken strings and bamboo", the heart by yangist and Mohist argumentation abou the "the hard and white, the same and the different." The consequences of civilization have been that man's nature is stimulated by luxury and sophistication to grow ambitions and desires as an excess like the superfluous flesh of webbed toes, and his Potency is diverted into offshoots like a sixth finger on the hand. Once they are grown he cannot bear to sacrifice them; "even someone with webbed toes will weep when they are ripped apart, even someone with a sixth finger will scream when it is bitten off." Those thinkers of the rival schools who are coming out of their hiding under the Ch'in, newly aroused by worldly ambitions, are making themselves the slaves, inwardly of the temprations of eye and ear, outwardly of duties and conventions....
What then should one do if reluctantly driven to accept the throne of the Empire
"Therefore if the gentleman is left with no choice but to preside over the world, his best policy is Doing Nothing. Only by Doing Nothing will he find security in the essentials of his nature and destiny."
There is however a positive side to this Doing Nothing: to remove people fro mthe artificial stimulations which make them grow i nthe wrong direction. It is here that we discover the positive function of those ancient Emperors down to Shen-nung, and the single paternalist element in the Primivivist's otherwise flawless anarchism.