For at least the past 30 years I've studied the Chinese economy, made several trips to the mainland, including a two year stay in 1996-1998, and have visited numerous cities, towns, and villages (including visits to the communes before they were dismantled), interviewed rural farmers (including many Dai farmers in Yunnan) and managers at state-run enterprises. However, my interest in China dates back further than my interest in Chinese economics. At twelve, I read Pearl Buck's The Good Earth. This book sparked my interest in China, although it took me a long time before I remembered that particular catalyst. During my early undergraduate years I explored Chinese history and philosophy, as well as the Mandarin language (Thank you to Dr. Katherine Shen.) I look back on my first course in Asian Philosophy at the University of Missouri, St. Louis (Normandy), which I audited during my junior year of high school, as one of the primary influences on my becoming a professor, as well as reinforcing my interest in China.
This essay series was the foundation (seedgrain) for Chinese Capitalism and the Modernist Vision. Please note that while these essays formed the intellectual basis for the text, they are significantly different in a number of ways. By way of analogy, in some ways you might think of the relationship of the essays to the text as similar to that between MS-DOS and Windows. The latter is an evolution from the former, but they are significantly and functionally distinct. The latter contains ideas that had yet to develop when the essays were being written, although the ideas in the essays made the new insights of the text possible. However, looked at in another way, these essays are a completely different operating system (Linux, perhaps) to the more tightly integrated operating system of the book (Mac OS, I hope, and not Windows, because of the heterodox nature of the theoretical framework deployed in the text). The essays were written as individual attempts to make sense of certain aspects of the Chinese transition process. I made no effort to organize them in any coherent whole. The text, on the other hand, was written with a singular theoretical framework as the guide, utilizing a version of overdeterminist Marxian theory (the former term refers to the specific ontology deployed -- one that is more consistent with current understandings of physics and the nature of change and the latter refers to a specific type of social accounting) to critique the Marxian theory that shapes the political and economic strategies of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Indeed, one of the most serious shortcomings of the "China literature," at least that which attempts to explicate post-1949 China, is the illiteracy of most "sinologists" on the language of Marxian theory, and, more particularly, the differences between variant forms of Marxian theory that have been deployed and contested in China. The text attempts to make up for these past shortcomings and to provide a critique of "modernist Marxism" CPC-style, and its rationale for maintaining monopoly control over the state, utilizing the same logical categories as the CPC. Hopefully, the argument that is produced would, therefore, be more difficult to dismiss on purely ideological grounds (although I've seen enough intellectual gymnastics to know some will find a way to do precisely that).
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Chinese Capitalism and the Modernist Vision is that it is the first and only text to examine the theoretical and related political roots of the post-Mao economic reorganization in China and to use this grounding to make sense of the current transition of Chinese society, as well as the initial conditions for this transition. The text also answers the question (provocatively) of what kind of transition this is and why it is so significant to political economy. The essays below were a beginning at exploring the interconnections between politics, Marxian theory, and economics in the context of Chinese transformation.
NB: The essays below were revised after publication of Chinese Capitalism and the Modernist Vision to alter the appellation used to identify the current leadership from "pragmatic conservatives" to "pragmatic modernists" in recognition of their underlying modernist version of Marxian theory and to eliminate the confusion that the term "conservative" creates. Although the pragmatic modernists are "conservative" in the narrow political sense of conserving the Leninist concept of a vanguard party that holds monopoly control over the political levers of the state, the term has very little utility in describing the economic policies of this same group of leaders and theoreticians.
Essays on Contemporary Chinese Economic History (1 thru 8)
Essays on Post-Mao China and Theory (9-23)
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