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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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- Spring '13