ASIA212Varley

216 heterodox trends another source of inspiration

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Unformatted text preview: ere they would be sufficiently moral to exist without external controls is generally associated with schools of thought in China other than the Confucian. That Ogyû Sorai should take such a position was in part a response to new social and political problems that beset Tokugawa society about the time of the Genroku epoch and in part simply a reflection of the strongly practical, pragmatic approach of many heterodox thinkers of this age. Many of the problems that the Tokugawa shogunate encountered as it approached its second century were the result of what today we would call progress. The shogunate, for one thing, was increasingly perplexed about how to deal with the great flourishing of commerce that peace and tranquility brought. While the townsmen enjoyed to the fullest their Genroku prosperity, the shogunate and the samurai class in general, still overwhelmingly dependent on agriculture for income, found themselves more and more financially hard-pressed as the result of market fluctuations and the inflationary drift of the times. In 1695 the shogunate even resorted to the desperate expediency of currency debasement in an attempt to solve its financial difficulties. Another problem that troubled the shogunate was bureaucratization. The Tokugawa shogunate had been founded on the basis of direct military controls to govern a country that in 1600 had known only warfare for generations. The original structure of the shogunate, although it proved to be remarkably durable, was inevitably altered and expanded with the passage of time to meet changing conditions. One of the most important changes was in the office of shogun. The three great founding shoguns, who ruled until 1651, had been personally dominant figures. But with the growth in complexity of shogunate affairs and the appearance of weak men in the hereditary line of its headship, the shogun’s powers often came to be exercised by others, and open struggles over these powers among men and groups within the shogunate became increasingly frequent. Although a par ticularly strong-willed shogun could still exert his personal influence, the tendency toward a diffusion of power (apparently characteristic of all bureaucracies) can be observed in the history of the...
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