ahorbinski: My Marxist-feminist dialectic brings all the boys to the yard.  (marxism + feminism --> posthumanism)
Bibliographic Data: Cheng, Yinghong. Creating the New Man: From Enlightenment Ideals to Socialist Realities. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2009.

Main Argument: In the wake of the Enlightenment construction of human nature as inherently malleable and a tabula rasa on to which whatever could be projected, communist regimes the world over (communism itself being an Enlightenment project) undertook to create the "new man" as part and parcel--the ground and the product--of building their "new societies."

Global communism is an Enlightenment project & a world historical phenomenon. )

Critical assessment: I couldn't finish this book. The central idea--global communism in world historical analysis--is excellent, but Cheng offers essentially diachronic looks at the discourse of the new man in each country without enough actual analysis. He claims to be in Isaiah Berlin's camp in viewing these communist social engineering endeavors with extreme concern, but I'm not convinced. Particularly since Marx is and must be a central component in any endeavor to move past modernity, I think it's absolutely crucial to be absolutely clear about the terrible human cost of these social experiments--millions of lives ended and still more willfully destroyed--so that they not be repeated in the same fashion. Also, who still even calls it the Third World? and, I'm going to pass over the inherent gender bias of "the new man," since to some extent the gendered bias of the discourse vitiates itself in Cheng's examples of revolutionary new women. Also, I really think North Korea would have made a fascinating addition to the sample set, particularly in light of Cheng's claims about the influence of Confucianism on Chinese communism and Mao (note also that a minority of scholars believe that Kant was influenced directly by Chinese legalism).

Further reading: Donald J. Munro, The Conception of Man in Contemporary China; Rebecca E. Karl, Mao Zedong and China in the Twentieth Century World

Meta notes: You have to be your own best (copy) editor, because there's no guarantee anyone else will do it for you.

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Andrea J. Horbinski

May 2016

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