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date: 23 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter looks at two different interpretations of the Theravāda Buddhist Aggañña Sutta that argue for notably different models of leftist politics. Aung San, writing as he struggled to establish an independent socialist government in Burma in the middle of the twentieth century, saw in this story of the first elected leader a radical critique of property and capitalism. By contrast, the Thai monk Buddhadāsa was writing in the turbulent 1970s, when he needed to distinguish himself from communist ideas and re-establish the legitimacy of a moral individual as leader. A comparison of their accounts illustrates the complex ways in which Buddhism can be and has been figured as a political philosophy in the modern era.

Keywords: Theravāda, Buddhism, politics, Burma, Thailand, socialism

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