It is a foundational work of the Legalist tradition: ""The Book of Lord Shang teaches that laws are designed to maintain the stability of the state from the people, who are innately selfish and ignorant. There is no such thing as objective goodness or virtue; it is obedience that is of paramount importance." The philosophy espoused in this work is quite explicitly anti-Confucian:
Sophistry and cleverness are an aid to lawlessness; rites and music are symptoms of dissipations and licence; kindness and benevolence are the foster‑mother of transgressions; employment and promotion are opportunities for the rapacity of the wicked. If lawlessness is aided, it becomes current; if there are symptoms of dissipation and licence, they will become the practice; if there is a foster‑mother for transgressions, they will arise; if there are opportunities for the rapacity of the wicked, they will never cease. If these eight things come together, the people will be stronger than the government; but if these eight things are non‑existent in a state, the government will be stronger than the people. If the people are stronger than the government, the state is weak; if the government is stronger than the people, the army is strong. For if these eight things exist, the ruler has no one to use for defence and war, with the result that the state will be dismembered and will come to ruin; but if there are not these eight things, the ruler has the wherewithal for defence and war, with the result that the state will flourish and attain supremacy.
—Chapter 2, Paragraph 5 of The Book of Lord Shang, pg 109 of J.J.-L. Duyvendak, 1928
^" The work Shang Chün shu (“Book of the Lord of Shang”) probably contains writings and ideas of Shang Yang, although the exact authorship of the book is in doubt.""Shang Yang." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 19 Sept. 2006 .
See also "Other figures associated with an early form of legalism are Shang Yang (d. 338 BCE), the putative author of The Book of Lord Shang, and Shen Pu-hai (d. 337 BCE)."
^"It is one of the major works of the highly pragmatic and authoritarian Legalist school of Chinese philosophy." "Shang Yang." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 19 Sept. 2006 .
Levi, Jean (1993). "Shang chün shu 商君書". In Loewe, Michael. Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide. Berkeley: Society for the Study of Early China; Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California Berkeley. pp. 368–375. ISBN978-1-55729-043-4.