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The Paradigmatic Approach to Studying Spirituality

In order to move beyond the comparative conscious, the paradigmatic approach may be more appropriate. Paradigms establish a broader problematic context that they both constitute and make intelligible, which goes from the particular to the general. It looks at similar patterns of social relations and customs, and for parallels to research objects (Chang 2011: 139). It does not obey the logic of the metaphorical transfer of meaning but the analogical logic of the example (Agamben et al. 2009: 17-18). The paradigm is never already given, but is generated and produced through “placing alongside,” “conjoining together,” “showing” and “exposing” by the inquirer. Thus the paradigmatic relation occurs between the singularity (which thus becomes a paradigm) and its exposition (its intelligibility) (23). For example, Foucault’s analysis of the “panoptic modality of power” can function as a paradigm of the societies of control (17). It exposes the power relations of modern disciplinary society, in which it is a paradigm.

Using a paradigmatic approach does not necessitate the comparison of predefined examples, rather it calls into question dichotomous oppositions, the objective of which is to transform the dichotomy’s terms into indiscernible entities (19). By so doing, we see a case not as a historical fact but rather as the hidden matrix and nomos of the political space in which we still live (Agamben 2000: 37). The whole is the result of the paradigmatic exposition of individual cases (Agamben et al. 2009: 27). It is isolated from its context only insofar as, by exhibiting its own singularity, it makes intelligible a new ensemble, whose homogeneity it constitutes itself (18). In other words, dialectics uses hypotheses as paradigms, not as principles (26). The paradigm stands for all cases from the fact that it is one case among others (20).

By adopting a paradigmatic approach, we must know how to create relations between things that have no apparent link, thus creating “correspondences” and “analogies.” It is through this imaginative process that authentic knowledge can be produced, that is, the knowledge of unseen things (Didi-Huberman 2015: 100). In doing research, we either fail to imagine and present nothing, or we discover some fertile new analogy, something that reveals what has not yet been thought of and that makes what has been repressed rise up. This is our optical unconscious (101). Although this analogy or the searching for what Confucianists call “the immediate history”1 lacks the usual sustained Western theoretical development, it exposes us to a kind of similarity, using analogy again, between the Confucian and Western paradigmatic approaches to examining history. This approach is not overly concerned about identifying universal values, rather, it is dedicated to exposing how people behaved in the past in order to show how we can behave in modern times especially in terms of encouraging individuals to be morally obligated to the rest of humanity (Ackerly 2005: 554).

This assertion is enacted through the relationship between the researcher and “the real” through conditional connections. The nature of one object draws upon the nature of another and they condition each other, so they do not have an arbitrary relationship. Equally, the one does not follow from the other, so they do not have a “necessary” relationship. This is called explanation without necessity (Bevir and Rhodes 2010: 78). Thus the remnant or hybridization acts as an assertion that does not belong to each side of the division. It stands back a bit from the division and is exposed by the researcher. In this context, narrative is a form of explanation that works by relating actions to the beliefs and desires that produce them. In narratives, pointing to conditional connections that relate people, events and ideas to one another explains actions and practices without evoking the idea of necessity. We, as narrators, strive to the best of our ability to capture the way in which events happened in the past or are happening today (78).

For example, as Zhang and McGhee (2014) have demonstrated, when contemporary communist officials are interviewed on research projects, they often practise parrhesia to express controversial views. We noted that in ancient China, there was also a kind of parrhesia that enabled individuals to find the courage to tell the truth. Similarly, Ackerly notes that social criticism in the context of a repressive regime in China was sometimes considered to be akin to a Confucian political philosophical practice, by which criticism by scholar-officials, despite risk, became a respected practice (2005: 565). This is called wenjian (critic of the emperor by Confucianism scholars, even at the risk of death). This analogy between Confucianism scholars and parrhessiatic practices in contemporary China and in the West can help us avoid the search for certainty and truth, but helps us to diagnose the close relationships between the subordinate and the king, and highlight the importance of the ethical behaviours of political actors in politics and the complementary relationship between the two in particular political contexts (Connolly 1993: 368).

Similarly, the notion of remnant goes beyond the numerical portion of the whole; instead it refers to the impossibility for “the part” and “‘the all” to coincide with themselves or with each other (Agamben 2005: 55). The remnant refers to the articulation of a relation of part to whole that does not fit into dialectical thought (De la Durantaye 2009: 299). In this sense, the remnant is a paradigm of dichotomous division or the paradigm is the remnant of the dichotomous division. As in Zhang and McGhee’s book (2014), the practice of manipulation of “problems” by Chinese officials, or their positive resistance to problems, can also be seen as a remnant between state policy and local policy. Analogizing Weber’s study, local governors would succeed in “appropriating their benefices” and transforming them into “hereditary office-domains,” which can be seen as a process of re-feudalization (Van Der Sprenkel 1964: 358). Thus, in the Party system, this process can also be called a process of re-authoritarianization.

The notion of remnant is very similar to what Chinese Yin Yang philosophy describes as “the simultaneous presence of contradictory, even mutually exclusive elements within a ‘thing’” (Fang and Faure 2011: 1), which means everything embraces opposite properties. As we discussed in Chap. 2, the globalization process exposed China to unprecedented global knowledge transfers, information sharing and cultural learning (2), which, in turn, opened up a space within the state—the hybrid space which is in direct contact with foreign concepts, technologies, cultures and lifestyles (4). In this sense, culture is not as a tradition, but can be described more accurately as a socially constructed dynamic phenomenon which embraces diversified and even paradoxical mental switching and value orientations (2).

In this book, we argue that hybrid society in China would be better seen as a remnant (or hybridization) of the division between the modern and the traditional, as a consequence of contemporary Chinese society undergoing modernization and the revival of tradition. Simultaneously, it is an exemplar of a paradigm that is paradigmatic and goes beyond the dialectical conception of the relation of China’s singularity to the international community (De la Durantaye 2009: 301). Similarly, if the division between faith and reason, belief and knowledge underpins the myth of secularization and the emergence of modernity (Marshall 2009: 4), it would also be true that the emergence of the China Dream discourse, or the revival of Confucianism, is underpinned by the division between China and the West, between democracy and dictatorship, between neoliberalism and authoritarianism, and so on.

On the one hand, the China Dream discourse is an attempt to rebalance relationships between individual dreams and the dreams of the nations (Callahan 2013: 8). The rationale of this discourse, as Fumian argues, is that the Chinese government has attempted to manipulate “the people’s emotional states” and “to make them content and to win their consent over a social reality” (2013). In the context of globalization, the discourse of the China Dream also exceeds the territorial limits of the nation-state and reaches out to transnationals by constructing the Chinese identity, which seeks to mobilize transnationals to serve its modernization project and political assertiveness (Barabantseva 2005: 27). In general, dynamic historical conditions have shaped the evolving discourse of modernization, while intensified globalization has given Chinese modernization discourse a marked transnational character (Wheeler 2005: 18-19).

On the other hand, China seeks to both reform and accommodate global norms and rules, (Chin and Thakur 2010: 134) by interpreting Western enlightenment principles through a Confucian lens of governance that stresses an essential unity between citizens and state, rather than giving primacy to human rights as claims against the state (130). The latter is an example of a particular interpretation of socialism, namely that socialism can use capitalism to increase the power of the Chinese nation (Steele and Lynch 2013: 1). As a result, China’s approach to the global order is “for the state actors to use power softly in a multilateral setting” (Chan et al. 2008: 14). This also means that the concepts are ontologically derived from the West, yet are epistemologically Confucian (Chin and Thakur 2010: 127). Thus, falling somewhere in between, most systems are neither democratic nor totalitarian in the strictest sense of the terms. Some may respect popular sovereignty but violate individual liberty; others may violate popular sovereignty but respect individual liberty (Hu 2000: 5).

Thus, to examine the China Dream discourse, we need to trace how the embedded discourses and the images of the future it includes have shifted and what effects these tensions from the past might have on current discourses (Hoffman 2013:54). Just as in our previous book where we argue that the governmentality of the Party is often accomplished through the government of the people (Zhang and McGhee 2014), in this book, we will show how the government is attempting to regain its legitimacy to govern the people through the Party’s government of officials. We will also explore the common ground between these two levels of governmentality and Confucius’ thinking on good governance, for example, in the context of the well-known Confucius saying: “the king should ‘reign but not rule’ people through ministers.” We will modify this in the light of our findings to say “the king rules through looking after the people.” Translated into the contemporary Chinese context, this becomes the Party rules the people through reigning officials. Thus, key to this are the techniques which encourage the formation of the ethical subjectivities of the officials who are dedicated to working for the masses. Thus, the governmentality of the hybrid society in China is first and foremost the governmentality of hybrid members who are governing the hybrid society.

As Zhang and McGhee (2014) found, policy discourse and policy implementation in China is a rather complicated process fraught with power relations and discretionary interpretations at the various levels in the Party hierarchy. In this context, it could be the case that the corrupt or immoral practices of communist individuals could be the result of a failure of the communist infrastructure which has produced the opportunities and contexts that enabled these practices. When this is taken together with officials’ rampant ambition, and lack of ethical integrity, their orientation towards the greater good becomes increasingly marginalized. In this context, the promotion of communist officials came “increasingly to depend on the ability to lie, charm, hide, steal, cheat, pilfer, forage, smuggle, trick, manipulate or otherwise outwit the state” (Veg 2014: 536).

In this sense, the Party’s claim to moral superiority through the exposure of individual Party cadres’ immorality is a crucial means of understanding the power relations within the contemporary Party (Hansen 2013: 47). We argue that the governance of the state can be understood through examining how the Party operates and goes about the process of regulating, monitoring and correcting government practices. As such we consider the perspective of governing members (i.e., officials) to be essential in the process of examining the anti-corruption campaign and resultant programmes and strategies.

As Holbig and Gilley rightly point out, today’s efforts to mobilize ideological commitment in China is not focused on regular people, but on political elites who form the rank and file of the administrative staff at all levels of Party, state and military hierarchies (2010: 408). The discourse of the China Dream targets these complex power relations between the Party and society, and between the Party and its members, in the context of globalization. In other words, the linkage between Confucian-derived values in the lives of ordinary people in modern China and the Confucian ethic in traditional elite culture has been specified (Wei-Ming 2008: 61).

In response, the main research question of this book is as follows: How is it that Chinese officials will be socialized into the practices and norms of extant institutions (Beeson 2013: 233) for the purpose of fulfilling the potential of the China Dream?

We have discussed in the previous chapter the emergence of the discourse of the China Dream. In the following chapters, we will examine how the China Dream discourse is to be practised or fulfilled by Party instruments, namely the communist members. As we will demonstrate in Chaps. 4, 5, 6 and 7, the discourse of the China Dream contains three subdiscursive fields when it comes to revitalizing and re-moralizing the Party. They are the anti-corruption campaign, the anti-four undesirable working style initiatives and the Mass Line Education programme. In the regime of anti-corruption, the authority of the Party acts as the guarantor for fulfilling the China Dream through forcing Party members to be morally upstanding. However, as no authority can rely solely on outright violence to secure everyday compliance from its members (Yan 2014: 495), the Party has to deploy “a full set of nuanced, normalized and internalized systems and tactics to secure their organizational and ideological grip over the subjects they rule” (496). In Chap. 5, we will expose how the direct relationship between government and the socialization of individuals is being addressed through the Party’s anti-four undesirable working styles initiatives.

Moreover, for these interdependent processes to be successful, there is a need for the Party to provide intellectual and moral leadership through the construction of subject positions, identities and discourses (Bevir and Rhodes 2010: 53). Thus, a set of rules have been introduced for addressing the relationship between procedures of truth and forms of the subjects, namely as operator, witness or object (Foucault et al. 2014: 341). For example, in the anti-corruption campaign, the Party is the operator of truth (the China Dream); it is also the witness and the object of the truth act that the Party discovers deep within itself, namely what is to be the law and rule of its belief and act of faith (85). For the subject, the Party designates specific types of obligations that an individual must submit to in the act by which she/he becomes the agent of a manifestation of truth (341). This is the technology of the subject, by which the individual is led either by himself or with the help of or under the direction of another to transform himself and modify his relation to himself (345). This is what the Mass Line Education Programme has been designed to achieve (we will explore this further in Chap. 7).

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