Subhayu Bhattacharjee
Deptt. of English, Mirik College, Darjeeling, India | University of North Bengal, India
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Capitalism but not quite: A postcolonial analysis of Deng Xiaoping thought
Dedalus 25 (2021), pp. 197-209. Download PDF
Marxism as a socio-cultural and political discourse has undergone several appropriations and approximations in the last century ranging from postcolonial reflections on Western Marxism to the European New Left (Laclau and Mouffe). Although Asiatic strands of Marxist thought have been conventionally looked upon as developments on the broader narrative of Marxism itself, more critical attention needs to be paid to their role in shaping postcolonial responses to the ‘First World’ questions of Marxism. In such a light, the grand narrative of Marxism does not simply undergo a refashioning as such but gets exposed to the particular conditions of the ‘Third World’. Perhaps this is what led Mao As Dong to characterize and categorize geopolitics in the form of the categories of the First, Second and Third Worlds, apart from geopolitical tensions like the Sino-Soviet conflict of interest. It is interesting to note further that it was Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping who took up the issue of such a categorization in the United Nations in 1974. The conventional view of Deng has focussed on his initiative of reforms and “readjustment” and thereby often tended to diminish his image as a prominent Marxist ideologue to one who was the harbinger of capitalism in China.
However, a closer analysis of Deng Xiaoping’s writings will put into question such an easy characterization of his thought. In fact, a very distinct strand of postcolonial reconfiguration emerges in the broader theoretical presumptions of Deng Xiaoping theory. This happens when one undertakes a comparatist approach and looks at the towering figures of neoliberal policies in Dan’s time such as Milton Friedman and their works. In significant ways, Deng Xiaoping thought offers a resistance to complete appropriation by neoliberal discourses whilst at the same time it offers a response not just to Western Marxism but also the Western idea concerning the welfare state. To cite Derrida’s play on the use of spectral metaphors in his acclaimed Spectres of Marx, the conjuring activity that is associated with spectres could evoke two distinct uses: “conjure up” and “conjure away”. As a Asiatic study of Marx, Deng Xiaoping theory can be said to both “conjure up” elements of Marxist principles without associating itself too closely with the Western foundations of Marxism, and “conjure away” any hint of appropriations of its ideas on society and political economy by broader neo-liberal perceptions in the West. Thus my paper will undertake a comparatist approach to the writings of Milton Friedman and Deng Xiaoping to underscore the fundamental differences in the latter and broadly account for such differences on the basis of its postcolonial momente, milieu and historie.
Keywords: Marxism, post-colony, enterprise, Deng, Third World