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The Mirage of China

Anti-Humanism, Narcissism, and Corporeality of the Contemporary World

Xin Liu

222 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-545-3 $120.00/£85.00 Hb Published (April 2009)

ISBN  978-0-85745-611-3 $29.95/£21.00 Pb Published (February 2012)

eISBN 978-1-84545-906-2 eBook


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The book as a piece of writing is fluid and graceful. Liu's ethnographic accounts are indeed masterly--deftly weaving dialogue, observation, metaphor, and analysis in a way that would make many writers (of both fiction and nonfiction) sigh with envy. Liu juxtaposes characters and incidents in such a way as to subtly highlight the themes at hand, using humor, irony, and understatement to bring to life the world of ‘making up numbers.’ Liu effectively suggests that the rise of statistics and the objective mode are, like the rise of Maoism and the ideological mode, a phase in history that may or may not appear equally ridiculous in years to come. Can we see outside our own spot in history, Liu asks, and should we (and the people of China) give up dreaming and utopias merely because our current historical moment favors the narcissistic, corporeal statistic?  ·  H-Ideas

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 a priori categories 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.

Xin Liu is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley and Fellow of the Sociology Division, the E-Institutes of Shanghai Universities. He is the author of In One's Own Shadow (University of California Press, 2000) and The Otherness of Self (University of Michigan Press, 2002); and editor of New Reflections on Anthropological Studies of (greater) China (IEAS, UC Berkeley, 2004).

Series: Volume 5, Culture and Politics/Politics and Culture
Subject: General Anthropology
Area: Asia

LC: HC427.95 .L588 2009

BL: YC.2012.a.17977

BISAC: SOC002000 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Anthropology/General; POL000000 POLITICAL SCIENCE/General

BIC: JHM Anthropology; JP Politics & government




Contents

Acknowledgements
Preface

Chapter 1. Making up numbers

PART I: MORAL MATHEMATICS

Chapter 2. The mentality of governance

  • The weight of numbers
  • The obesity of statistical yearbooks
  • The law for statistical work

Chapter 3. The facticity of social facts

  • A new life of facts
  • Socialism and statistics
  • Let facts speak for themselves

PART II: STATISTICS, METAPHYSICS, AND ETHICS

Chapter 4. Discipline and punish

  • Professor Dai and his statistical revolution
  • The colonization of social sciences

PART III: REASON AND REVOLUTION

Chapter 6. The taming of chance

  • Change and chance
  • Land and luck
  • Fortune and fate

Chapter 7. Interiorization

  • Stories and memories (genealogy of history I)
  • Temporality and subjectivity (genealogy of history II)
  • Class and classification (genealogy of history III)

Chapter 8. Exteriorization

  • Epistemology I: Anti-humanism and narcissism
  • Epistemology II: Objectivity and corporeality
  • Epistemology III: Mass and massification

Bibliography
Index

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