China and Postsocialist Anthropology applies lessons learned from socialist governance, especially in China, to the realm of social theory. Socialist governance explicitly draws on various aspects of Marxist theory and thus directly illuminates issues as varied as theorizing power, imagining the relationship between continuity and discontinuity in historical process, utilizing the category of “the political” when writing about culture and society, and conceptualizing categories like class, the state, the market, and citizenship. Many of the most destructive episodes of socialist governance can be linked to two major themes in Maoism and Marxism: a holistic conception of society; and a positive valuation of politicization (in the forms of conflict, struggle, and political oppositionality). Both themes play an important role in the practical exercise of socialist governance and, in the process, generate a number of related sub-themes, or socialist logics. These two overarching themes come together in the practice and concept of socialist revolution—an armed struggle that transforms society from one holistic form (capitalism) to another (socialism). China and Postsocialist Anthropology explores and develops forms of theorizing about society and politics which avoid the over-politicization, holistic language, metaphors, assumptions, and logics so prevalent in socialist governance.
About the Author
Andrew Kipnis is a Senior Fellow in the Contemporary China Centre and the Department of Anthropology, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, the Australian National University. He is author of Producing Guanxi: Sentiment, Self, and Subculture in a North China Village and co-editor of The China Journal.
China and Postsocialist Anthropology is a sophisticated and insightful analysis of post-socialist regimes, seen through the prism of the Chinese case. Andrew Kipnis is a highly conceptual anthropologist, very well versed in social-science theory, who also has an in-depth, on-the-ground knowledge of China. Bilingual in Chinese and English, in this important book, he employs his dual expertise to present cogent analyses of post-socialist power relations, post-Marxian social theory, neo-liberalism and neo-leftists in China, the reshaping of citizenship, and a range of other related topics. The book will be of considerable value to comparative social scientists, his fellow anthropologists, specialists in socialist and post-socialist regimes and societies, and social theorists.
—Jonathan Unger, Author, The Transformation of Rural China and Editor, The China Journal, 1987-2005
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