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1990 Reviewed work(s): The Asiatic Mode of Production in China. by Timothy Brook

1990 Reviewed work(s): The Asiatic Mode of Production in China. by Timothy Brook

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1990 Reviewed work(s): The Asiatic Mode of Production in China. by Timothy Brook
1990 Reviewed work(s): The Asiatic Mode of Production in China. by Timothy Brook

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Review: [untitled] Author(s): Arif Dirlik Source: The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 49, No. 3 (Aug., 1990), pp.

625-627 Published by: Association for Asian Studies Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2057782 . Accessed: 10/08/2011 17:30
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may be more suggestive than definitive. Sharpe. 242).Y. The other section ("America Rediscovered") deals with travellers from the People's Republic since the normalization of diplomatic relations in the late 1970s. Zou Taofen's sympathetic account of the plight of the black people in Alabama in 1935 was probably not representative of Chinese views of American blacks then or now. Arkush and Lee also provide useful prefatory notes to each section and each selection. including a political liberalism that he contrasted with Guomindang authoritarianism at home. The product of efforts to resolve problems of revolution through social analysis. we looked to works that were either representative or of special interest" (p. Not only did political allegiance more often than not determine the choice of interpretive strategy within a Marxist framework. "The mainland writers marvel at exotic America and its technology. 209). they note that "Much of what he found in America he liked. Armonk. N. though their naive enthusiasm is tempered by a fear of the menacing aspects of big-city life" (p. Arkush and Lee state that "In choosing the selections.. In short. The Chinese instead stress the technologicalaccomplishmentsof the U. In the introduction and afterword. Marxist historiography was to be embroiled in ensuing years in the immediate political questions thrown up by its revolutionaryenvironment. as is epitomized by Zhang Jie's paranoid description of New York City in 1982. on the one hand. for example. "all but entirely absent from Chinese accounts" (p. Another recurrent Chinese criticism is the unfilial behavior of young Americans toward their parents. Regarding Yin Haiguang. and religious morality are. However.BOOK REVIEWS-CHINA AND INNER ASIA 625 interesting for being based on familiarity" (p. Inc. but also "[tihe isolation and loneliness of American life" (p. American dynamism and vigor. They then proceed to quote not Yin's praise for American political institutions but his distaste for American informality.S. EDWARD RHOADS Universityof Texas at Austin TIMOTHY in China. on the other.S. E. European accounts of the U. Politics has been integral to Chinese Marxist historiography since its beginnings in the late 1920s. but political change also had immediate effects in shifts in the domination of the historical field by competing interpretive strategies. They also fail to include an index. they present the selections with a minimum of annotations and rarely take issue with an author's observations. American accounts of China. they claim. xi. 204 pp. and.. 12). 11). while tremendously interesting. It would appear that in many instances they may have put interest ahead of representativeness. The studies compiled in this collection chronicle one such shift within Chinese Marxist historiography: the surge of interest in the application to Chinese history of Marx's concept of the Asiatic Mode of Production (AMP) that accompanied the . the selections in this anthology. Similarly. 201). They find particularly striking the differences between the Chinese and the European views: European images of American boorishness. egalitarianism. 5). Arkush and Lee compare and contrast these Chinese views of the United States with. Edited (with an Introduction) by The Asiatic Modeof Production BROOK.: M. But more interesting is what he did not like" (p. This was especially the case after 1949 when organizational regulation became an effective force shaping the practice of history. 1989.

This discussion. as Timothy Brook correctly reminds us. but to relaxation of official control of history and to a new openness to the world that made possible challenges to official historiography. After a few initial (and rather feeble) attempts to apply it to China at the very origins of Marxist historiography. and it was on account of its radical vision of politics that it was able to open up radically new ways of thinking about the past (a clear distinction needs to be drawn here between political sensitivity and vision. this time within prevailingMarxisthistoriography and against it. This particular debate may not have led to a radical rewriting of China's past. The selections in the volume have been chosen with care and sensitivity in illustrating this point: not only do they convey a good sense of the broad range of interpretations that have emerged from efforts to resolve the contradiction between theory and history. in particular. And yet. which implied that change in the configuration of political power should have precedence over social revolution in defining the tasks of revolutionary change. which ignores the significant part questions of revolution played in the choice of interpretation. such as Umberto Melotti's Marx and the Third World). The reasons for the repudiation of the AMP in the thirties had been complex ones (including its banishment from historiography by political fiat following the Leningard Conference of 1931). but they also indicate that the discussion has brought Chinese historians to a more critical appreciation of Marxism as historical theory. and the political or organizational regulation of history). But it was also intimately connected with the ideological changes in China that accompanied the political shift of the late 1970s. the AMP was absent as a significant issue in Chinese historical writing until this most recent revival. and the revival was due not to official encouragement. a change in perception from the social to the political sphere as the locus of China's most fundamental problems. The con- . Marxist historiography has been political all along. and ignore its implications as history. it would be reductionist to view the discussion of the AMP merely in political terms. it does so at a price: both in ignoring complex problems of revolutionary change imbedded in society. Neither is it to be ignored that while the AMP reintroduces multilinearity into the Marxist conception of history. but one such reason directly pertinent to problems of revolution had been a tendency on the part of those who portrayed China as an Asiatic Society to concentrate on the centrality of political power in such societies. that the issue should have come forth once again when. in the late 1970s. but in the critical awareness it has engendered. which certainly is an improvement over its representation in official orthodoxy as an iron-clad naturistic social "law. the editor tells us. Its revival in the late 1970s in China may be viewed as part of a worldwide resurgence of interest in the concept that had gotten under way in Europe and the Soviet Union in the 1960s (the Chinese discussion called upon European works on the subject. but also in introducing into Marxism a culturalist concept that is hegemonic in its denial of validity to histories other than the European-capitalist.626 THE JOURNAL OF ASIAN STUDIES radical political changes of the late 1970s. too. it has brought some historians to a sophisticated appreciation of Marxism as an interpretive strategy." I do not agree with the editor's cavalierly psychologistic observation that the unilinear scheme of history which has long dominated Chinese Marxist historiography was the product of some Chinese "anxiety" about being excluded from the rest of the world. It is not surprising. therefore. emphasis in politics shifted from contradictions within society to a purportedly more fundamental contradiction between state and society. has brought a new critical awareness into historicalthinking.

As this most recent debate has begun to wane already. Though a wealth of information is provided in statistical tables and diagrams based on the Chinese references. 1976). Despite these limitations as a research tool. E.95. $39. The editor and the other translators of the studies in this volume are to be congratulated for making these important issues available for a reading public outside of China specialists. these two books. Translated by Michael Vale. we are introduced to most of the minority issues from the perspective of the substantial Chinese academic press (referredto generally only by the journal reference itself. with trips to "minority regions" from 1982 to 1988 (p. v.Autonomy HEBERER. which is standardprocedure for newspaper citations. we may only hope that the issues it raised are not lost to Marxist historiography in China as with past debates. with such peoples as the Chinese Jews. Heberer's book also suffers from rather stilted English (with such neologisms as "animatism" pp. however." who "lived and worked" in China from 1977 to 1981. rather than the author. since the author claims to be "an anthropologist. but an unfortunate oversight when dealing with more substantive academic articles). because in the contradictions it presents it may release Marxist historiography in China from the categorical (and no less hegemonic) unilinear view of history (of Stalinist origin) that has constricted it for so long. population and birth- . Sherpas. New York: M. Sun Yatsen. Heberer's book is an excellent introduction to such contemporaryminority issues as the history of China's nationality policy. represent the first substantial attempts to address all of China's fifty-five minority nationalities since June Dreyer's China's Forty Millions (Cambridge: Harvard Press. ARIF DIRLIK Duke University or Assimilation? By THOMAS China and Its National Minorities. Donald Maclnnis and Max Weber. 165).BOOK REVIEWS-CHINA AND INNER ASIA 627 frontation between the two views is to be welcomed. As a translation. 1989. guages Press. the economic development of Yunnan province (with 24 minority groups alone). 165 pp. translations of German and Chinese works. with little reference to the English language social science literature on China or its minorities. the problematic identification of the minorities in the 1950s (and the ongoing debate. 102. 111). Like Dreyer. Heberer derives most of his information from an impressive combing of Chinese journal and newspaper reports. the impact of the Cultural Revolution. 450 pp. xiii. sinologist. the book updates Dreyer but does not give us much more firsthand information on the minorities themselves. China'sMinorityNationalities. 1989. Edited by MA YIN. Sharpe. and citations of secondary sources in German even when they are available in English. such as those by Mao Zedong. and Khmer still seeking recognition). This is unfortunate. however. Instead of personal observations or extensive interviews with local informants and officials. Beijing: Foreign Lan- Given the growing interest in China's minorities and the dearth of information in English. there is little questioning of the sources themselves. and political scientist. the data is presented raw.

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