The Mirage of China

The Mirage of China: Anti-Humanism, Narcissism, and Corporeality of the Contemporary World

Xin Liu
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 222
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  • Book Info
    The Mirage of China
    Book Description:

    Today's world is one marked by the signs of digital capitalism and global capitalist expansion, and China is increasingly being integrated into this global system of production and consumption. As a result, China's immediate material impact is now felt almost everywhere in the world; however, the significance and process of this integration is far from understood. This study shows how the aprioricategories of statistical reasoning came to be re-born and re-lived in the People's Republic - as essential conditions for the possibility of a new mode of knowledge and governance. From the ruins of the Maoist revolution China has risen through a mode of quantitative self-objectification.

    As the author argues, an epistemological rift has separated the Maoist years from the present age of the People's Republic, which appears on the global stage as a mirage. This study is an ethnographic investigation of concepts - of the conceptual forces that have produced and been produced by - two forms of knowledge, life, and governance. As the author shows, the world of China, contrary to the common view, is not the Chinese world; it is a symptomatic moment of our world at the present time.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-906-2
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. viii-xii)
  4. Prologue: Making Up Numbers
    (pp. 1-18)

    One late afternoon, on our way to the National Bureau of Statistics, Pannong and I were chatting in a taxi, the least expensive kind, axiali, which cost only one Chinese dollar and twenty cents per kilometer, a favorite choice for most people in the capital of the People’s Republic at the threshold of a new century. I was conducting fieldwork for a new project, and Pannong, a businessman based in South China, whom I knew through another connection prior to this trip, was hoping to meet with a friend who worked at the Bureau. After the taxi started moving,...

  5. Part I: Moral Mathematics

    • Chapter One The Mentality of Governance
      (pp. 21-47)

      “‘Reading the morning paper is a kind of realistic morning prayer.’ This remark by Hegel is often cited to illustrate how interests have changed in the modern age: our gaze has turned away from the invisible beyond and toward daily events.… Modern man’s sole orison consists in reading the morning paper; for, being a realist, he deems the news to be the first object worthy of his attention at the moment when that attention is sharpest.”¹ It seems as though such a realistic attitude, having traveled a long distance from the time of Hegel (1770–1831), has nowadays regained its...

    • Chapter Two The Facticity of Social Facts
      (pp. 48-64)

      A primal shift has taken place in the field of governmental statistics of the People’s Republic: statistical information is no longer considered purely anofficialasset, sacred as well as secret, entirely made or prepared for the state’s use. Against the long and somewhat rusty Chinese tradition of thought, statistical data have come to be seen as a source of neutral, objective knowledge about the economy and society. This knowledge is now owned, as common property, by both officials and ordinary people. To say the least, this indicates a change in the relationship of the governing to the governed, of...

  6. Part II: Statistics, Metaphysics, and Ethics

    • Chapter Three Discipline and Punish
      (pp. 67-91)

      “The law of tragedy requires a death before a hero can come onstage.” With this amusing observation, François Dosse (1997, 3) opens his account of the history of structuralism in post-war France. The hero of his story was Claude Lévi-Strauss, an anthropologist, while the tragic figure, who experienced a moment of intellectual death, was Jean-Paul Sartre, an existential Marxist during the early 1960s. Intellectual battles, past and present, here and there, are also fought on political grounds. This means, as suggested by Dosse’s apt account, that political struggles, both within and outside the academic world, often underlie emotive intellectual debates....

    • Chapter Four The Specter of Marx
      (pp. 92-110)

      Professor Dai was a believer in science, not particularly in statistical science but in thenotionof science understood as the iron laws of materiality and development. However, it would appear that he had not always believed in such laws, because in his early works, those written during the Maoist years, he tried to make the Hegelian/Marxist dialectic a theoretical foundation for statistical knowledge. A couple of decades back in time, Dai had hoped to demonstrate the dialectical nature of statistical knowledge. Like his colleagues at the time, he tried to show that the Marxist theory of historical and dialectical...

  7. Part III: Reason and Revolution

    • Chapter Five The Taming of Chance
      (pp. 113-132)

      Refracted by the positive light of the modern Other, the Chinese self-image became negative in the last moment of the previous century. This self-image was produced inthe mirror-fieldof the Other and marked a significant shift in the self-representation of the People’s Republic. The mirror-field, a notion borrowed from Louis Althusser, who had in turn taken it from Jacques Lacan, isa field of mirror effectsin the production of a self-image by way of the Other. It is real in the sense that one is looking at oneself inthe mirror, which is the Other. It is imaginary...

    • Chapter Six Interiorization
      (pp. 133-171)

      So far we have made the Maoist experience sit at an analytical distance in a conceptual backbench, for our attention has been focused on the more recent happenings that have given rise to the current age. Now that it is time to analyze the present sentiment itself, we should invite the backbencher to appear on center stage. The world of China is no longer what it was, especially after the late 1990s. The present moment, in the strict sense of the term, differsin kindeven from the 1980s, which were still entangled with the Maoist morality and reason. That...

    • Chapter Seven Exteriorization
      (pp. 172-198)

      Our “ethnographic present” is painted on the canvas of the Maoist years as an eclipsing background for meditation and reflection. The immediate object, the central figure of the portrait, is not the background tincture of the painting; however, it is necessary for the image to be painted on a canvas of analytical distanciation. The mirror effect of the recent past is both historically real and conceptually made, with each aspect being intrinsically dependent on the other. The posturing model of the picture is sketched on a particular choice of conceptual coloring so as to make the modeling gesturevisible.This...

  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 199-199)
  9. References
    (pp. 200-206)
  10. Index
    (pp. 207-210)