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Should We All Be More English? Liang Qichao, Rudolf Von Jhering, and Rights
Journal of the History of Ideas (2000)
  • Stephen C. Angle, Wesleyan University
Rudolf von Jhering (1818-92) published Der Kampf ums Recht (The Struggle for Law) in 1872. He was already regarded as one of Germany’s most important legal philosophers, and Der Kampf helped to ensure a world-wide reputation. His argument that people should be less like the “adult children” of China and more like the English found audiences everywhere, including China, where Der Kampf was translated between 1900 and 1901. Jhering’s doctrines stimulated Liang Qichao (1873-1929), one of China’s leading thinkers, to publish “Lun Quanli Sixiang (On Rights Consciousness),” in 1902 as part of his manifesto On the New People. Liang tells us that the “essential points” of his essay, which is among the earliest and most sustained treatments of the concept of rights to appear in Chinese, are mostly taken from Der Kampf.2 We will see that there are indeed certain similarities that make Liang’s “quanli3 (the standard Chinese translation of “rights”) resonate with Jhering’s notion of “Recht,” and these similarities—chief among which is a kind of individual assertiveness—help to explain Liang’s interest in Jhering. My discussion of the two thinkers will offer at least the beginnings of an explanation of why German conceptions of law and rights were so attractive to Chinese intellectuals. 
  • China
Publication Date
Citation Information
Stephen C. Angle. "Should We All Be More English? Liang Qichao, Rudolf Von Jhering, and Rights" Journal of the History of Ideas Vol. 61 Iss. 2 (2000)
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