Chinese Marxism in Flux, 1978-84: Essays on Epistemology, Ideology, and Political Economy

Chinese Marxism in Flux, 1978-84: Essays on Epistemology, Ideology, and Political Economy

Chinese Marxism in Flux, 1978-84: Essays on Epistemology, Ideology, and Political Economy

Chinese Marxism in Flux, 1978-84: Essays on Epistemology, Ideology, and Political Economy

Synopsis

This study of major traumas of the 20th century in America focuses on how the national responds to them, what those responses mean, and how nation traumas are similar and different to personal traumas. Coverage includes the Depression, Pearl Harbor, and the assassinations of Kennedy and King.

Excerpt

In societies which call themselves 'socialist', Marxism is, on the one hand, a method for understanding and changing social life and, on the other, an ideology which rationalises the interests of those in power. In this, it is no different from any other system of thought. It has, however, long been the central concern of political theory to disentangle the ideological from other elements; and Marxism itself offers a fruitful way of doing just that. This point needs to be stressed because of the renewed tendency in China studies to dismiss all Chinese official thought as ideological rationalisation, and the emphasis in current studies to seek some 'real world' which dispenses with Marxist categories. Whilst rejecting official Chinese statements as 'ideological', 'the real world' analysts paradoxically are only too eager to scan such statements for elements which reinforce their non- Marxist view of the world.

Such real world analysts are caught in the same methodological- ideological bind as official Chinese Marxists. On the one hand, they may offer us insights into social relationships obscured in official rhetoric. Yet, on the other hand, they offer rationalisations of the interests of those who oppose the whole socialist project. Take, for example, those studies which, in rejecting Marxist 'ideology', seek 'reality' in individuals maximising their utilities. Taken as axiomatic is the notion of the atomised individual whose appetites are restrained either by market forces or the external legal system. Analysts of this persuasion take solace in Chinese jokes to the effect that the selfless model, Lei Feng, was really an 'ultra-leftist' because he failed to see the intrinsic value of the individual. They rejoice in the Chinese return to a 'realist' conception of law which allows for the individual to make predictions about the utility-maximising outcomes of behaviour and to a more 'realistic' economic structure which equates material reward more with individual effort. When challenged, they demand that one consult Chinese people themselves about the nature of 'real benefits'. The axiom about the atomised individual is joined to the axiom that people know what is in their best interests, or perhaps that people's opinions are more 'real' than the interplay of social forces.

There is a tendency, therefore, for many Western analysts to use the notion 'the real world' for ideological purposes. The same applies to many analysts in China who use the category 'real' to denounce the 'utopianism' associated with the 'Gang of Four'. Most contributors to this volume agree that the result is an official ideology which is more sterile than that which it superseded and just as, if not more, incoherent. On the other hand, the official denunciation of 'utopianism' has been accompanied by an official denunciation of 'dogmatism'. This has allowed large numbers of non-official Marxist academics to explore the Western Marxist renaissance of the 1960s, the literature critical of . . .

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