The Idea of a ‘Chinese Model’: A Critical Discussion

Rajni Kothari Lectures are instituted in honour of the CSDS Founder Director Professor Rajni Kothari. Earlier speakers in the series include Professors Sudipta Kaviraj, Gananath Obeysekere, Rounaq Jahan, Abdellah Hammoudi and Charles Taylor.

The lecture will take up some questions thrown up by the idea of a “Chinese model.” The laundry list approach that characterizes most discussions simply draws on a variety of policies pursued by the regime to render what may be contingent responses into a “model,” with its suggestion of conscious design, so that even “pragmatism,” which resists such categorization, is rendered into the terms of the discourse. At the other extreme are obscurantist references to exceptional Chinese characteristics that by definition rule out the possibility of Chinese development serving as a model of any kind. Only occasionally is there any kind of effort to distill from a wide array of shifting practical policies an account of the structural premises coherent enough to justify the use of the term, model. Even then, there is a conspicuous absence of attention to the historical circumstances that may be crucial to understanding the ideological and practical forces that have guided the development of Chinese society.

Arif Dirlik is Knight Professor of Social Sciences (History and Anthropology), University of Oregon, Retired. He is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, University of British Columbia; and has held honorary appointments at China Center for Comparative Politics and Economics; Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, Beijing; the Center for the Study of Marxist Social Theory, Nanjing University; and Northwest Nationalities University, Lanzhou, PRC, China.

His most recent book-length publications are Selected Works of Arif Dirlik (2010, in Turkish), Snapshots of Intellectual Life in Contemporary China (2008, special issue of boundary 2), Pedagogies of the Global (2007), and Global Modernity: Modernity in the Age of Global Capitalism. He has recently completed two edited volumes -The Formation and Indigenization of the Disciplines in China: Sociology and Anthropology and The End of the Peasant? Global Capitalism and the Future of Agrarian Society.

Friday, 16 September 2011
CSDS Seminar Room