Challenging both the bureaucratic one-party regime and the Western neoliberal paradigm, China’s leading critic shatters the myth of progress and reflects upon the inheritance of a revolutionary past. In this original and wide-ranging study, Wang Hui examines the roots of China’s social and political problems, and traces the reforms and struggles that have led to the currenChallenging both the bureaucratic one-party regime and the Western neoliberal paradigm, China’s leading critic shatters the myth of progress and reflects upon the inheritance of a revolutionary past. In this original and wide-ranging study, Wang Hui examines the roots of China’s social and political problems, and traces the reforms and struggles that have led to the current state of mass depoliticization. Arguing that China’s revolutionary history and its current liberalization are part of the same discourse of modernity, Wang Hui calls for alternatives to both its capitalist trajectory and its authoritarian past.From the May Fourth Movement to Tiananmen Square, The End of the Revolution offers a broad discussion of Chinese intellectual history and society, in the hope of forging a new path for China’s future....
|Title||:||The End of the Revolution: China and the Limits of Modernity|
|Number of Pages||:||272 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
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The End of the Revolution: China and the Limits of Modernity Reviews
This collection of essays is the English translation of a volume titled 'Depoliticized Politics' (去政治化的政治). application of a model of democratic politics to the bureaucratic authoritarianism of China. The idea is that the nation-state becomes depoliticized, with very few real debates over ideology - just the application of power struggles. The idea of economic reform or 'transition' is never ending, and used to justify or wave aside any political dysfunction or pervasive inequality. Likewise, the past ideological struggles of the past, including the Cultural Revolution, are used as a bludgeon against any attempts on the left to reform the status quo - you don't want us to go back to that, do you?Wang's work is a critique of neoliberalism, and attempting to maneuver the role between the CCP and democracy. Wang makes the unusual choice to recast the June 4th incident as an anti-market or anti-globalization protest. Yet his description of other protests is selective and incomplete. There's very little about recent work in the Cultural Revolution, and none at all about the 1957 anti-rightist campaign or any of the new documents on the Hundred Flowers campaign. Other essays focus on scientific development and modernization from a Chinese point of view. This is apparently a selection from another multivolume work of his. The style is dense and academic, and this may be an attempt to prevent a prying censor from finding too much to critique. Furthermore, there are some idiosyncrasies in translation. For example, the Korean War is referred to with the official government term, 'The War of Resisting America and Aiding Korea'. (抗美援朝战争) The book closes with two biographical essays - one on the late environmental activist Xiao Lianzhong, and the other on the author Lu Xun. Wang Hui's earlier work on him was the subject of plagiarism charges - but other intellectuals came to Wang's defense, claiming it was improper citation practices and not deliberate. An unusual and provocative look from a Chinese intellectual on the left on the state of China today.
Warning: This is the first book I'm putting in a category I'll call "hardcore." That means the book is very difficult, so I don't necessarily recommend this title, or this review, to everybody. But if you're interested in intellectual history....I was expecting this to be a journalistic account celebrating the rise of gradualism in contemporary China. Boy was I wrong: this is a set of very piquant critiques both of China's current models of development, "hollowed" Western democracies, the concept of the nation-state, the domination of scientific discourse, disciplinary knowledge as we know it, and modernity, modernity, modernity. In short, it's a carefully reasoned rant from what is apparently called the "New Left."The seven essays here are a little bit more than I could handle on my first go-round, but there will be another. This is not a book to digest all at once. Nor do I recommend reading all the essays in sequence!6. Son of Jinsha River: In Memory of Xiao LiangzhongMy favorite piece in this book is both the most concrete exposition on Wang's vision of social movements for fairness and social equality and a memorial to the dead. We never learn how Xiao Liangzhong died, but we do get a clear view of how and why he took up the leadership of a small effort to stop dam construction that would have obliterated his diverse cultural heritage in China's southwest. Wang (somewhat coldly!) summarizes what we can learn from his sometime friend: Social movements involved different outlooks, opportunities, ends and means in their operations, with the key ingredient being the level of awareness participants have regarding the movements they are engaged in. Yet it was through this process that, entirely because of Liangzhong, I came to have a much deeper and more concrete understanding of the situation of NGOs within the country. Among the movement were many devoted, selfless and pragmatic people, and for these traits I viewed them with great admiration. The different frameworks and perspectives within these movements, along with the difficulties they faced and the new strength they were gaining bit by bit, make it worth our thinking about and seeking our understanding. Each time I saw Liangzhong during this time, he was extremely travel-worn, but nonetheless in good spirits, filled with pride and deep concern for his fellow villagers and hometown.There was no word on whether the movement was able to stop the dam -- I'm afraid they were no more successful than Jason Schwartzman's character in I Heart Huckabees. But the main thing of interest here is that there are such Jason Schwartzman characters all over China, and they are gaining ground "bit by bit."5. Scientific Worldview, Culture Debates, and the Reclassification of Knowledge in Twentieth-Century China"Son of Jinsha River" is one of two personal essays (the other is an essay on Lu Xun I will read next time I pick the volume up) placed in the back of the book to show specific applications of Wang's thought. The personal element in these two pieces makes them the most readable. For essays 1-5, well, best of luck to you.My technique is basically to drastically limit the amount of time I am wiling to give Wang, which means flipping through the text rapidly, reading a page or two here and there, reading the first page and last page, looking at the section headings, thinking about the essays place in relation to the rest of the volume, and then sort of skimming systematically though the essay, reading the beginnings of paragraphs, endings of paragraphs, and some paragraphs continuously. All the while I jot down notes on a legal pad, but lightly -- I only filled one page front and back to get what I have here. I think this is probably the best way to approach Wang's extremely dense style.That said, I really got quite a lot of "Scientific Worldview." The piece overlaps with defense of the humanities that are coming out all the time here in the USA, but has a much broader perspective that is really worth considering. Wang's first comment is on the deep influence of scientific rhetoric on modern Chinese society; nothing illustrates this better than the story of Science Monthly: Taking this journal as their organ, scientists began to study scientific concepts ...and to use a horizontal form of writing, Western-style punctuation (in 1916) and vernacular Chinese. These experiments were recognized by the state and society, then developed into a state-approved institutional practice (for education and the mass media). Norms of modern Chinese humanistic discourse and daily language (such as punctuation and horizontal writing) were accepted gradually through the practice of scientific language. So in the early stages of the experiments, it is hard to distinguish the language of science from the language of the humanities.Wang does not quite denigrate this historical process, but like a good Leftist points out the contradictions inherent in a discourse that calls itself only a method.It behooves us to remember at this point, before it is too late, that the humanities should be focused on explaining human beings as complicated social beings -- humanities in the future must attempt to represent the integrity of the human being, including natural and socieconomic objectivity. Through the haze of Chinese expository prose, one can clearly see the overlap with American behavorial economics here!Finally, in the second part of this essay we have a grand exposition on three major thinkers: Three important projects helped to reform the modern world and China: Yan Fu's universalistic worldview, which was established upon Neo-Confucianism, the Book of Changes, and positivism; Liang Qichao's worldview, which is supported by the Study of the Mind (xinxue), New Text Confucianism, and German idealism; and Zhang Taiyan's anti-universalistic worldview, which combined Consciousness-Only Buddhism and Zhuangzi's Daoism.The biggest surprise here is Zhang Taiyan. I had no idea he was a sophisticated critic of the rise of scientific discourse. By Wang's accounting, both modernists and their critics in China drew much more on traditional thinking than is generally acknowledged, and moreover, as the contradictions in scientific discourse become ever more clearer, traditions from Zhuangzi to the NeoConfucians can take on new significance once again.4. Rethinking The Rise of Modern Chinese ThoughtIn this reflection on Wang's own previous work, Wang defines his own disciplinary background and issues in one of the most bravura outlines of intellectual history I have ever seen. Basically, Wang sees himself as a social history advocate in the mold of Benjamin Elman, but focusing ever more on the connections between the tradition and modern contexts. (For an outstanding example, see his explanation of the term 物 as a product of Confucian ritual, later abstracted in the Song dynasty, on p. 125.)Wang is really in his element in considering the ways to think about Chinese history in light of modern intellectual history. For him, it's all about the increasing separation of politics from ethical and moral lives, a step first taken when the Confucians began operating a bureaucracy without recourse the rites of music (!!). This pattern of loss is repeated on many levels throughout the long and dense essay. Perhaps the most incisive point comes when Wang talks about the critical loss of multiplicity in the world: "...the multiplicity of cultures and lifestyles are being destroyed at an ever-increasing rate, both around the world and within China." (p. 133)I remember if Wang knows he is echoing comments Levi-Strauss made widely near the end of his life? (I'm guessing he does.)Just before his death, Claude Levi-Strauss said in an interview that this loss of multiplicity made him a pessimist. I like Wang better for remaining an optimist. He identifies the potential for a real shift in the CCP to a new social services role. "...China experienced a long and profound revolution in the twentieth century, so that Chinese society retains an acute sensitivity toward the demands of fairness and social equality." I took notes on some of the other essays as well, but this is definitely a volume worth returning to another time. Till then, Prof. Wang.
Just to give you a taste: "Chinese commentators have been curiously absent from international discussions about the Sixties, despite the fact that the Cultural Revolution was so central to that tumultuous decade. This silence, I would argue, represents not merely a rejection of the radical thought and practice of the Cultural Revolution but a negation of China’s whole ‘revolutionary century’—the era stretching from the Republican Revolution in 1911 to around 1976. The century’s prologue was the period running from the failure of the Hundred-Day Reform in 1898 to the 1911 Wuchang uprising; its epilogue was the decade from the late 1970s through to 1989. During this whole epoch the French and Russian Revolutions were central models for China, and orientations towards them defined the political divisions of the time. The New Culture movement of the May Fourth period championed the French Revolution, and its values of liberty, equality and fraternity; first-generation Communist Party members took the Russian Revolution as a model, criticizing the bourgeois character of 1789. Following the crisis of socialism and the rise of reform in the 1980s, the aura of the Russian Revolution diminished and the ideals of the French Revolution reappeared. But with the final curtain-fall on China’s revolutionary century, the radicalism of both the French and the Russian experiences had become a target of criticism. The Chinese rejection of the Sixties is thus not an isolated historical incident, but an organic component of a continuing and totalizing de-revolutionary process."(Wang Hui: Depoliticized Politics, from East to West)
As a reader not familiar with Chinese political thought, this book is fascinating. It takes the uninformed reader on a crash course through the history of modern Chinese thought and reveals the subtleties that most non Chinese observers would easily overlook. At the same time, it articulately tackles the questions of modernity in China firsthand, and we see Chinese thinkers interrogate the same questions of modernity that we claimed to have "solved" decades ago. The book also features a good discussion of the role of science in society from a historical Chinese perspective. Most importantly, throughout the various essays and interviews we see the importance of perspective and interdisciplinary thought in solving the problems of modernity. Be warned, however, the book heavily discusses the genealogy of certain Chinese ideas, which for the uninformed reader can be quite complicated. It also contains two tributes to Chinese academics.
This is an important critique of the politics of the Chinese reforms. For an extended review, see "Depoliticization and the Chinese Intellectual Scene."
KOBOBOOKSReviewed by The Guardian