（2008年7月30日-8月5日，作者在韩国首尔大学参加第22届世界哲学大会，大会的主题是“反思当今的哲学”[Rethinking Philosophy Today]。这是作者8月3日上午英文演讲的中文稿件）
Ideology Fading Out, Scholarship Highlighting
– Academic Turn of Philosophy in Mainland China Today
Guangyun Cheng & Nianxi Xia
Department of Philosophy Capital Normal University, Beijing, China
Abstract: In Mainland China, due to dominant status and decisive function of Marxism philosophy, philosophy has developed as the state ideology since the foundation of People’s Republic of China in 1949. However, since the 1990s the humanities and social sciences have been experiencing an obvious academic turn in Mainland China. The event first set in with a debate on academic norms and with the debate the academic norms have gradually become the mainstream in Mainland China. In accordance with the division of disciplines in Mainland China, philosophy as the first-level discipline is subdivided into eight second-level disciplines: Marxist philosophy, Chinese philosophy, foreign philosophy, logic, ethics, aesthetics, religion, and philosophy of science and technology. Roughly speaking, aesthetics, ethics and Marxist philosophy have a remarkable turn, while others just have a weak one. The turn signifies the achievement of the academic autonomy of philosophy in China; and the turn also means that philosophy scholars have realized their transition to professional status.
Since the 1990s the humanities and social sciences have been experiencing a far-reaching academic turn in Mainland China.
So far, in the whole academia, including universities and research institutions, the so-called “scholarship” has gradually gained the discourse hegemony; and the so-called “scholars” have gradually obtained academic resources and academic power by the very hegemony. The situation is just like what Li Zehou, a famous thinker in contemporary Mainland China, described: “the thinkers are fading out, while the scholars are highlighting.” In some sense, the historical movement is not inferior to the movement of ideological liberation or enlightenment in 1980s.Just the latter was more widespread, which influenced the masses, especially intellectuals; while the academic turn only influences the academics, but it has been lasting for a longer time, and one may say it has more significance. Moreover, in some sense, academic turn marks the historical end of the movement of ideological liberation. In order to let more people know more about philosophy and even the humanities and social sciences in contemporary Mainland China, we shall reveal the causes and effects of the turn, estimate its gains and losses.
1. In mainland China, due to dominant status and decisive function of Marxist philosophy, Philosophy has developed as the state ideology since the foundation of People’s Republic of China in 1949. In the Yanan time (1935-1948), the Communist Party of China (CPC) already treated the revolutionary war as a machine and literature and art as its “gear and screw bolt”. After the foundation of the PRC, CPC carried out ideological education among the broad masses, especially ideological reform among the intellectuals, i.e. so-called “brainwashing” campaign, CPC further treated literature and art as gears and screw bolts of the state machine. Even CPC’s Double Hundred Campaign, abbreviated for “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend,” and the former was for literature and art while the latter was for academia, was still based on ideology, because people were asked to “distinguish fragrant flowers from poisonous herbs” and “to judge between the right and the wrong among opinions and actions”. In the Mao Era, philosophy learning, teaching, research, a great deal of criticism such as the criticism of the theory of productive forces, that of the theory of conditions, and most debates all had politics as their background. There took place the “three major philosophy debates”:(1) the debate between “the theory on single economic basis” and “the theory on multiple economic basis” in the mid-1950s of 20th century; (2) the debate about “the identity of thought and existence” around the end of 1950s and the beginning of 1960s; and (3) the debate between “dividing one into two” and “combining two into one” in the mid-1960s. Strictly speaking, they all were called “academic” debates with the nature of ideology.
Even in Deng Xiaoping Era, the state ideology still occupied the mainstream. The debate on the criterion for testing truth in the end of the 1970s established that practice would be the sole criterion, and raised the first ideological liberation movement, thus opened the way for the theory and practice on “building socialism with Chinese characteristics” after ending the theory of “continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat” and the practice of “the proletarian cultural revolution”; the criterion productivity had not been established until the early 1990s, while there took place the second and third ideological liberation movements, which promoted the historical transition from the planned economy system to the market one and from the state ownership to people one. During the debate on humanitarianism and alienation in the mid-1980s, intellectual advocated human nature, humanity, opposed alienation under the enlightenment-thinking banner. CPC put forward the slogans “to clean up the spiritual pollution” and “anti-bourgeois liberalization” as the response to the debate. The discussion on humanistic spirit in the mid-1990s was about the relationship between the market economy and the humanistic spirit, which still had ideological tendency.
2. Since the 1990s the humanities and social sciences have been experiencing an obvious academic turn in Mainland China. The event first set in with a debate on academic norms. There were three basic viewpoints in discussion。Deng Zhenglai advocated that academic norms would be the guarantee of the autonomy of social sciences in his article entitled “About the Autonomy of Social Sciences in China”. What he meant by “the autonomy of social sciences in China” was just to claim that the social science in China should be independent of ideology. The independence is to refuse any ideology, not to advance a new one. The key here is to establish the academic norms and bring about the academic autonomy. Zhu Xueqin held that we should stick to folk thought in his article entitled “The Missing Persons in The History of Thinking”. His nostalgic mood revealed the modern knowledge institution including university had dual characters: being useful to the transmission of knowledge while harmful to the growth of personality; being useful to academic accumulation while harmful to the innovative thinking.
“The folk thought” demonstrates the significance and the value of those thought marginalized by the modern academic institutions. Liu Xiaofeng maintained that we should choose academism between state power and social rights according to the article entitled “Individual Academism between State Power and Social Rights”.He declared that “modern scholarship system” had its own disharmony elements, and we should rebel against the geopolitics of modern academic system. In his opinion, the most basic academic problem is not academic autonomy, not folk thought, but individual academic.
These three viewpoints represent three basic trends on academic norms. With these debates the academic norms have gradually become the mainstream in Mainland China. Academic norm is like a “besieged city”, and an academic “special zone” is built in the ideological atmosphere through a variety of admittance systems. In this zone the scholars declare that they would rather be second-class scholars than first-class ideologues. The scholars and the government seem to reach a contract and take an exchange: the scholars give up the rights of thinking in order to obtain academic power; while the official transfers academic resources in order to ensure the ideological authority. Now the pure academic research has obtained the same position as the ideological “academic” research with respect to the academic institutions or academic resources. A kind of scholarship within the system is being created, and the folk thoughts and individual scholarship are repelled outside the system. Thus the atmosphere of ideological liberation in 1980s has been dispelled and replaced by the academic turn. Most intellectuals return to their studies from the square, only few of them are still there, but what they can do just raise some “storms in teacup”. In recent years, the official capital in Mainland China already has been transferred to the academia in batch. But the same thing has not happened to civil capital and individual capital. It means that the situation “ideologues fading out while scholars highlighting” would continue.
3. In accordance with the division of disciplines in Mainland China, philosophy as the first level discipline is subdivided into eight second level disciplines: Marxist philosophy, Chinese philosophy, foreign philosophy, logic, ethics, aesthetics, religion, and philosophy of science and technology. Since the ideology has influenced them differently, they have different manifestations of the turn. The fault zone is to liberate from the current philosophy- textbooks research paradigm, for instance, the struggle between materialism and idealism, between dialectics and metaphysics, between Confucianism and Legalism, historicism, class analysis, natural diagnostic method and dialectical logic. Here there are three different situations: (1) the trend of ideological liberation appeared in the ideological debates in the 1980s; (2) the academic turn in the 1990s; (3) the further development of the turn in the new century. Roughly speaking, aesthetics, ethics and Marxism philosophy have a remarkable turn, while others just have a weak one.
Some of the academic turns are to resume the academic traditions such as translation, philology and hermeneutics, while others are to be in line with the international academic trend. For instance, ethics is developing in two directions: political-philosophy ethics and religion- philosophy ethics; aesthetics is treating the philosophy of art as research center instead of the history of art. And most of them are experiencing the turn from the domination of questions to the domination of scientific theories. Philology research has become the mainstream, especially there emerge the hermeneutics of Marxist philosophy and even Marx studies.
4. In short, the academic turn of philosophy in Mainland China signifies the achievement of the academic autonomy of philosophy in China. The so-called academic autonomy is the representative of modernity. We know that disenchantment means freeing from illusion or false belief according to Max Weber, so value-neutral non-partisan academic research being free from ideology is manifestation of the disenchantment. In this pure scholarship the scientific theory originally created for questions has got its own independent meaning and value. Indeed, under the banner of academic norms, the simple scholarship of empiricism is being marginalized while the scholasticism of dogmatism is being centralized. Though post-modern trend is spreading in China, the post scholarship such as Griffin’s “Re-enchantment of Science” does not take place at all. Perhaps folk thought and individual scholarship are the only way to academic alienation.
The academic turn also means that philosophy scholars have realized their transition to professional status. Genuine academic intellectuals have split up from those imperial intellectuals attached to the state power and those public ones to social power.
They don’t do research for politics, but for scholarship. They strive to master some academic “unique skills”，and try to find out some simple mistaken made by others. They are taking scholarship as their living skills.
Scholars have obtained their legitimate position with the help of the establishment of academic norms, and they are legitimately entitled to dispose their academic resources and to exercise their academic rights. In recent years, the academic resources provided by the government are so huge while the output is so small without precedent in the history. This is an “academic Great Leap Forward”, and no one feel strange about the phenomena such as high targets, command without any ground, grandiosity. We have to say this is the false “prosperity” of scholarship, the real “corruption”. However, this is a peaceful redemption to the official, and it would be very useful for the political stability, although it is still questionable whether it is helpful for academic progress. As for the scholars, this is an “Academic Great Revolution” with redistribution of academic benefit and power, and the scholars master academic power by controlling academic resources.
Above of all, it should be said without hesitation that this turn has been one of the most remarkable and fundamental historical reforms made in recent decades. Where will the reform go forward? Let’s wait and see!
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