On the public commitment of intellectuals in late socialist China

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Theory and Society: Renewal and Critique in Social Theory, 2012, 41 (5), pp. 425 - 449
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This article investigates the intense debate on the figure of Chinese public intellectuals, which has gained increasing importance, both inside and outside Mainland China, during the last decade. The climax was reached in the year 2004, when the debate on the search for and against a role for the public intellectuals became the litmus test of the intellectual intersections between the State actors and the public. Through a close reading of the crucial documents, this article critically engages with the terminology and the interpretive paradigms employed. Thus the article highlights the contribution of the scholars examined to a dialogue on the role of critical thinking within China as well as globally. In fact, the exploration of the diversity of contemporary Chinese thought on the topic of public intellectuals can be inscribed within the framework of the following questions: How is the social category of public intellectuals used and why? And, ultimately, what does it really means to be an intellectual for the public in China today? In this sense, the article sheds light on the indigenous and foreign understandings of public and intellectual.
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