Home Political science China’s Ethical Revolution and Regaining Legitimacy: Reforming the Communist Party through Its Public Servants
Revival of History: Tension Between Tradition and Development
In many ways, the discourse of historical revival is often linked to the discourse of globalization. Generally, it is believed that the revival of historical-cultural forms is an effect of the globalization of the ideology of development, that is, developmentalism valorizes “cultural differences,” according to the logic of ongoing capitalist expansion (Dirlik 2002: 20-21). Empowered by reconfigurations of global relations and legitimized by the repudiation of Eurocentrism (21), the re-emergence of traditions or historical-cultural forms is seen as an attempt to reconstruct modernity based on particular regional models, thus providing a non-Western legitimacy for particular varieties of modernization (Khiabany 2007: 481-482). In this process, the discourse of development transports the disciplinary universe of modernity, as the epistemological figure (Agamben et al. 2009: 17), into a localized form. Thus, the resurgence of culture (which includes historic-cultures) is a symptom of the inclusive, co-optive open-endedness of globalization (Dirlik 2002: 17).
Therefore, instead of suppressing historic-cultural “others,” the discourse of global capitalist modernity (globalization) represents an important break with previous modernization discourses (20). As Dirlik elaborates:
The reification of culture serves this end by investing the definition of civili- zational cultures with those are well placed by the virtue of political power or global cultural capital to define the cultures of multitudes played physically in nations or civilizations, who differ quit significantly from one another in everyday cultural practices, but whose lives are vulnerable to colonization by the cultural ideals of their leaders, which are shaped more by participations in metropolitan dialogues on culture than by the understanding of those whose lives they would shape. (20)
This phenomenon is often labelled as “second (condensed) modernity,” which refers to a world that has moved beyond a system of nation-states with the penetration of society by diverse globalizing processes (Turner 2010: 313). In the construction of China’s modernization discourse, history is also being used to make claims in the present (Dirlik 2002: 17). This revival of culture in China has been especially empowered by China’s success in the global economy and its willingness to challenge the status quo of global power (Fan 2002: 72). Against this background, many Chinese scholars, inspired by Weber’s protestant ethic, are attempting to identify the Confucian-derived values that are relevant and correspond with economic development in China today (Wei-Ming 2008: 63).
However, as many have observed, the discourse of developmentalism is still a component of the expansionist ideology of the West and has resulted in colonial wars and cultural anarchy (Wang 2012: 753). That is to say, the discourse of developmentalism specifies an essential unilinear trajectory of history, in which different societies can be ranked in a developmental hierarchy (Lai and Thornton 2015: 2). This discourse neglects the moral status and agency of others, and echoes the colonial and imperial narratives of superiority, inferiority and benevolence of civilizing and developing missions (Amoureux 2015: 13). Thus, developmentalism is a strategy which often cloaks economic and political interests in moral terms (17).
As Agamben also asserts: “The obsession with development is so effective in our time because it coincides with the biopolitical plan to produce a people without fracture” (2000: 24). As in the contemporary world, the capitalistic-democratic plan in the Third World is to eliminate the poor, “not only because it reproduces inside itself the people of the excluded, but also turns all the populations of the Third World into naked life” (35). Moreover, as Foucault and Carrette argue, “European thought finds itself at a turning point, which is nothing other than the end of imperialism ... Thus, if philosophy of the future exists, it must be born outside of Europe or equally born in consequence of meetings and impacts between Europe and non-Europe” (1999: 113).
Behind these arguments, the various discourses of modernity and culture employ a method of division between modern standards of political rationality and traditional worldviews, which is merely a proxy for a cultur- alist opposition (Marshall 2009: 5). In this comparative framework, there is a humanist comparativist logic with which scholars sought to revalidate Chinese tradition (Wang 2012: 740). In other words, there is no choice but to compare (755). It is this comparison that makes social stocks of knowledge structured at different levels of abstraction and leads to them being unequally distributed (Keller 2013: 1). However, in contrast, we argue that the discourse of an “alternative to non-Western modernity” can be more productively examined by the idea of the rejoining of spirituality and politics (Chang 2011: 10), rather than just being an alternative to the Eurocentric modernity model. We will demonstrate that comparable to Pentecostal and charismatic varieties of Christianity, the China Dream discourse can be more productively viewed as a search for China’s spirituality through the Party’s ethical revolutionary practices. Thus, the anti-corruption, anti-four undesirable working-style campaigns and Mass Line Education Programme are components of the spirituality of politics. For so doing, we argue that epistemologically, spirituality is not quite the opposite of secularism or materialism. For example, the aggressive secularism in China that attacked religion and destroyed temples, simultaneously promised a transcendence of bodily limits and the coming of a socialist paradise. The charisma of Chairman Mao seemed hardly secular, but on the contrary rather close to the traditional discourse of “the Son of Heaven” (Van der Veer 2009: 1116). Throughout this book, we will make analogies between Mao and Xi’s revolutions, and in turn, their cultural and ethical aspirations for China.
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