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Political science professor publishes book on Daoism and Anarchism

September 6, 2012

MEDIA CONTACT: Hilary Dickinson at or 608-363-2849

Anarchist themes in ancient and modern Chinese dissident political thought is the subject of Political Science Professor John Rapp’s new book. Published by Continuum, Daoism and Anarchism: Critiques of State Autonomy in Ancient and Modern China was released in August 2012.

The book begins with an examination of radical Daoist thought from the 4th century BCE to the 9th century CE and compares Daoist philosophers and poets to Western anarchist and utopian thinkers. Rapp follows that up with a survey of anarchist themes in dissident thought in the People’s Republic of China from 1949 to the present. The concluding chapter discusses how Daoist anarchism can be applied to any anarchist-inspired radical critique today.

“People should read the book in order to learn that China does not have an unquestioned authoritarian political culture, but instead a long and vibrant tradition of questioning state authority, especially including those Chinese writers, philosophers and poets who argue that in the end the state rules, not for its subjects, but for itself," Rapp said.

Though Rapp developed Daoism and Anarchism while teaching courses at Beloit, the book comprises 35 years of scholarly research and even includes work he did as a graduate student.

Along the way, Rapp also benefited from the collaboration of a few students and Associate Professor of Chinese Language and Literature Daniel Youd. Lauren Jones’11 translated an article from the Chinese press denouncing the famous novelist Ba Jin that he used in chapter seven, while Catrina Siu’09 helped complete the first full English translation of the 9th century Daoist anarchist tract, the "Wunengzi," which appears in the appendix. Rapp says these students and himself were aided considerably by Youd. 

Finally, Rapp’s current student (Cleo) Zhang Kun’13 did the calligraphy for the cover of the book of the Chinese characters "wujun," or "no prince," the classical Chinese equivalent of the Greek "an-archos," or "no ruler."

 “In the end this book fits very well into the Beloit tradition of student-faculty collaboration,” Rapp said, adding that Sanger summer grant funds, work study monies and other assistance from the office of Provost Ann Davies made these collaborations possible. 

For more information on Rapp’s book, click here.

Source: John Rapp is a professor of political science and the founder of Beloit College’s Asian Studies program. His teaching interests include Chinese politics, Communist and post-Communist systems, comparative democracies, and Chinese and comparative political thought. He coauthored Autocracy and China's Rebel Founding Emperors and has published in many journals, including Anarchist Studies and the Journal of Comparative Asian Development.  He can serve as a media resource on topics related to his research and teaching interests. A full bio is available here.