The Modernity of Power in the Chinese Socialist Order

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Essay Excerpt

This modern mode of power represents both an extension as well as a departure from that of the imperial order. The old order's conception of power and the state was encased in a Confucian discourse where social regulation was defined as conformity to a moral order that already existed in a permanent natural-cosmological realm, and this was the ultimate value and end. Power in socialist society is understood as exercised by and for the population as the ultimate value and end, and it is the changing of morality and culture which is now the instrument through which the population's benefit is attained.[13] Its new discourse of universalistic ethics draws upon the ancient rationality of Legalism, but diverges from both Legalism and Nationalist New Life reasoning in substituting the population and the masses for the state as the new end. Thus, whereas the imperial order maintained a delicate balance between universalistic and relational ethics, in modernity, universalistic ethics become dominant while relational ethics go underground and constitute an oppositional force in the form of the gift economy. (Yang, 422) 

About the Author

Prof. Yang received her Ph.D. in Anthropology at U.C. Berkeley, and has taught at U.C. Santa Barbara since 1987. She has also assumed teaching, research, and visiting scholar positions at the University of Michigan, University of Chicago, Beijing University, Academia Sinica in Taiwan, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and the Center for the Study of World Religion at Harvard University.

Yang is interested in issues of religion, secularization, and the state in modernity, especially in the tensions and traumas accompanying the break with traditional orders under colonial and post-colonial conditions. Her areas of research and teaching are: critical theory; gender and feminism; media studies; sovereignty and state power; and cultural approaches to political economy.

Yang's cultural and geographical region of specialization is China and China's offshoot cultures and diaspora in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and the West. Although her research is based on fieldwork in contemporary China and Taiwan, her approach is always informed by a vision of the longue duree in Chinese history, and she has published on ancient China.

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