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296 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 a more sophisticated analytical framework, perhaps best explains the "curious logic" (p. 11) China has been operating on—albeit since long before the Tiananmen incident. Ming-Bao Yue University ofHawai'i at Mânoa Ming-Boo Yue is an assistantprofessor ofChinese literature specializing in twentiethcentury Chinese literature and culture. Zhang Boshu. Marxism and Human Sociobiology: The Perspective ofEconomic Reforms in China. State University ofNew York Press, 1994. xiv, 184 pp. Hardcover $14.95, isbn 0-7914-2003-5. The title ofthis book by Professor Zhang of the Chinese Academy ofSocial Sciences (Beijing) contains all the catchwords that might sharpen my curiosity when I first encountered it. In the end, I was disappointed because my anticipation that this book will contribute to a better understanding of the process, content, and consequences ofthe post-1978 economic reform in the People's Republic of China was not met. The core focus ofthis book is "the nature ofman"; it is a philosophical critique ofthe weakness ofMarx's understanding ofhuman nature in his work on the evolutionary transformation from capitalism to socialism. This weakness, according to Zhang, is rooted in Marx's omission ofhuman biology in his formulation ofthe human mind and behavior. This is the reason why Zhang has introduced sociobiology as a remedy for this deficiency in Marxist theory on economic behavior. While the integration of "biology and sociality" is suggested to be a unique and groundbreaking approach, according to Zhang, this integration has a long history in the social sciences and in the field ofethology. Desmond Morris' popularization ofthe integration of"biology and sociality" is a good case in point. There are ten chapters in this book; 70 to 80 percent ofthe text deals with the clarification and critique ofMarxist theories on human nature, labor-for-living (what is often known as subsistence economy), labor-for-profit (what is often by mversi y ]mown as market economy), product economy (the ideal social relations oflabor under socialism), commodity economy, and a variety ofother issues. Professor Zhang's explanation ofthe contradictions between the kind ofcommodity economy that was introduced in the course ofthe post-1978 economic reform and the ofHawai'i Press Reviews 297 socialist ideology and practice in post-1949 China, through his examination ofthe theoretical origin ofthe concept ofsocialism in Marxist theory, is a valuable contribution . However, this explanation remains very much at the abstract level without sufficient grounding, or any serious attempt at grounding, in empirical data. For Zhang, the economic reform in China and its many moral and economic problems are mirrored in the democratic movement in 1989, which he has taken as a starting point in his discussion ofthe economic reform. While Zhang comes across as a well-informed philosopher and Marxist theoretician, as is clearly indicated by the breadth ofhis knowledge of other scholars' work on the topic worldwide , the last chapter, and the only chapter he devotes to the economic reform, is a personal and emotional discussion that comes from "the heart ofa Chinese intellectual " (p. xiii). Contrary to Zhang's emphasis on the "scientific" approach in his work, the importance ofincluding "historical-cultural issues" (p. 135) in scholarly thinking, and the value ofthe philosophical-anthropological approach (p. 136) to our understanding of China in its past, present, and future, Zhang's depiction ofthe post-reform Party and its leaders as a power-hungry group who have lost legitimacy in the eyes ofall Chinese due to their immoral oppression offreedom and human rights is neither supported by anthropological observations ofthe diverse and often contradictory reactions to the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident among the people within China, nor based on a scientific and critical examination ofthe history ofthe Chinese state and its governance. Implicit in Zhang's discussion ofthe future ofChina is a strong Western-centric bias that sees individualism and freedom as the hallmarks ofcivilization and progress—but nowhere in his consideration does the historical-cultural specificity of China or global geopolitics and economic restructuring come into the picture. Has this book enhanced my understanding ofpost-1949 China? Not much. As a social anthropologist who has looked at foreign investment in China since 1987 and its diverse...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 296-297
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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