Chinese Dialectics (2)

March 16th, 2014 | Chinese Philosophy, communitarianism, Confucianism, dialectical materialism, Hegel, ideology, liberalism, Lukacs, Maoism, Marxism, orientalism, popularization, reviews, Soviet philosophy, Stalinism.

Tian, Chenshan. Chinese Dialectics: From Yijing to Marxism. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005. x, 237 pp.

1 Tongbian: A Chinese Strand of Thought 22
2 Marxism in China: Initial Encounters 49

3 Tongbian in Preliminary Reading of “Dialectics” 72
4 Qu Qiubai’s Reading of Dialectical Materialism 89
5 Popularizing Dialectical Materialism 108
6 Ai Siqi: Sinizing Dialectical Materialism 129
7 Mao Zedong: The Mature Formulation of Dialectical Materialism 146
Conclusion: Marxian Dialectics after Mao 178
Notes 190
Glossary 210
Bibliography 241
About the Author

As you can see from my previous post, I began to read and review this book in October 2008. My initial conclusions about its ideological bent remain unchanged. Here is what I have to say upon having just re-read its final chapter.

Conclusion: Marxian Dialectics after Mao

Because of the tradition of Chinese communalism, Chinese neoliberalism has been absorbed into Chinese socialism, thus altering Western liberalism. Various traditional Chinese social and legal concepts are summarized. Citing Hall and Ames, the author argues that Confucianism lives on in the contemporary Chinese incorporation of capitalism. There is no inherent contradiction between Chinese capitalism and socialism. Again, tongbian or continuity is emphasized. Hence, via a metaphysical reading of Chinese intellectual and political history, the author’s ideological fraud is completed.

Hall and Ames are far from alone in exploiting the exoticism of the Orient and glorifying its conservative organicism—its notion of metaphysical harmony—as a putative antidote to the perceived alienation, individualism, and disharmony of the West. In this they are in harmony with the obscurantist peddlers of the East. This is ideological charlatanism at its worst, and all the more disgusting in light of the reality of neoliberalism today.

What remains to be gleaned from this book, minus its unacceptable argument, is the factual content of the development of Marxist philosophy in China, in its absorption of foreign sources and the ideas of its indigenous thinkers. In lieu of reviewing this in detail now, to give a flavor of the content, I append my raw notes below.

Tian, Chenshan. Chinese Dialectics: From Yijing to Marxism. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005. x, 237 pp.

Chapter 2: Marxism in China: Initial Encounters

Japanese influence
51-2: socialism, Marx, Liang
53: Marx & Nietzsche. Modern Socialism: 1st Marxism
55-6: Sun Yat-sen & skipping historical stages
56-7: 1st translation of Marx & Engels
58: earliest debate
59-60: anarchism
60: introduction of diamat
61: workers & women, idealism & materialism
62: Heraclitus
63ff: Hegel

Chapter 3: Tongbian in Preliminary Reading of “Dialectics”

72ff: bianzheng: etymology –> dialectics, via Japanese
76: Liang viz. Heraclitus
79: maodun = complementaries, not contradiction. Cai [……?] – Hegel
80: Hegel: essentialism
81: Hegel’s secularized Trinity
81-2: Cai’s translation of Hegel
82: Bhaskar’s definition of dialectic
83: Engels problematic. Deep structure of western thought. Bianzhengfa: diamat

Chapter 4: Qu Qiubai’s Reading of Dialectical Materialism

88: Chinese Marxism not interested in understanding philosophy of histomat
Qu Qiubai brought back Marxism from USSR –> dialectics. No access to young Marx, Western Marxism
91: Qu dependent on 2nd International & Soviet Marxism, but called himself a student of Marxism
93: Qu as a Chinese had different priorities. See continuity through differences –> Sinification
94ff: Qu: diamat is philosophy of continuity/correlation. Humanity in continuity with physical world. Like Yi Ching[?]. contra religion & teleology. Bian: change as continuity.
100: tongbian [……?] dualistic western concepts (BS!), e.g. base & superstructure [Chinese correlative thinking]

Chapter 5: Popularizing Dialectical Materialism

Qu formulated system of diamat 1923-1927. 1927-1937: various popularizers, link to traditional Chinese philosophy. Diamat all the rage. Zhang Dongsun (anti-diamat) vs Ye Qing.
109ff: Zhang vs Hegel & Marx. Confused concept of negation –> class struggle
111: Ye: “dialectics negates philosophy and confirms science”. Materialism absorbs idealism. Dialectic as evolution.
114: Li Da’s translation of A Textbook on Dialectical Materialism influenced Mao (1937). Dialectical and Historical Materialism (Mitin et al). 1st systematic interpreter of Marx.
115: Li: 1st to consider Marx’s 1844 mss –> key concept of praxis. Diamat: epistemology & praxis based on one another
116: Wu Liangping: base & superstructure
117: Zhang Ruxin on Hegel
118-9: Shen Zhiyuan vs Ye Qing. Shen popularizer, translated Mitin.
120: Chen Weishi: proposed Sinification.

Problem [my objections]:
1. aware of dissensions within Marxism [?]
2. Marxism interpreted by USSR, diamat
3. adapted to Chinese conditions—flexibility
4. but book focuses on metaphysics—limited to diamat & tongbian
5. comparison of Chinese[?] & diamat based on metaphysical generalizations about the difference & assumption that everything be deducible from metaphysics

Chapter 6: Ai Siqi: Sinizing Dialectical Materialism

Ai Siqi polymath.
130: as translator
132: translated Mitin & Stalin. Ai the master philosophical educator.
131: Mao vs Ai on contradiction
133: Ai as popularizer, philosophy as practical
134: Ai’s method of exposition, counterexamples.
135: conversion of Western discourse into Chinese context (BS!?)
136: Ai sophisticated in Western learning but did not distinguish between method & social realm
137-8: Ai’s & Mao’s Sinification program. BS: continuity with Chinese tradition (philosophical as well as sociopolitical)
139: Lukacs viz. Engels controversy alien to tongbian
140: critique of Lenin’s Materialism and Empiriocriticism

Chapter 7: Mao Zedong: The Mature Formulation of Dialectical Materialism

143: criticizes Stalin, even more strongly Chinese than others
144: Mao’s thought in practice led to victory: BS. Ollman on internal relations.
145: Mao read Lenin, Dewey
146: Mao at Dewey lecture; studied Hegel
147: Mao’s voracious philosophical reading was all from Chinese translations of Russian texts
150-1: Mao conversant with classics, interested in Confucianism, Daoism
152: Mao knew Chinese classics
153: Mao not fond of Confucius, but found dialectics in him. Emphasis on the active
155: dialectics & classics
156: diamat as continuity
158: on contradiction
160: doing continuous with thinking
161: voluntarism
163: propaganda BS for Mao. Mao vs Engels
164-6: Mao vs Stalin

Note: This was taken from a post on my “Studies in a Dying” Culture blog. When I am able to recover Part 1 of this review, I will add it. — RD

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