- Editor's Introduction
Nicola Spakowski's "Socialist Feminism in Postsocialist China" points out and begins to evaluate a current in contemporary neosocialist, Chinese, feminist scholarship. Since 2010 Dong Limin, Min Dongchao, Song Shaopeng, and Wang Lingzhen have been reinterpreting socialist feminist theories to offset an earlier regime, erected on disavowed socialism, and to reevaluate the present economic liberalization's relation to the socialist past. While they claim to reevaluate Chinese socialist feminism, they foreground Nancy Fraser's work, nonetheless. This is to acknowledge their own universality and lack of specificity and to question Ford Foundation–funded "gender" theory in translation and current Chinese statist political chronologies. These scholar militants for a new socialist feminism are, Spakowski argues, consequently both subjects and objects of their own workshops, discussion forums, publications, and critical interventions. [End Page 549]
Spakowski's twenty-first-century socialist feminism is postnational. Dong, Min, and the others situate themselves in a postsocialist capitalism, rather than strictly in a nation-state. This is a significant step because China is not the only "postsocialist capitalist" economy in the world, and a situated platform means scholars can do more than endlessly generalize about masculinity and femininity, misogyny and chauvinism. Just as revolution is supranational, these feminists single out Chinese revolutionary experience not because it is Chinese but because there is value in it. In their hands the past becomes a "legacy" and "resource," considered thoughtfully and reclaimed for today's broader world. Finally, while they align themselves with the older, rather cavalier, masculinist, Chinese New Left, these neosocialist feminists (including Yan Hairong, Bai Di, Pun Ngai) are bending history, materialism, and dialectics to feminist questions.
Michael Lucken's "On the Origins of New Left and Counterculture Movements in Japan: Nakai Masakazu and Contemporary Thought" unfolds at a similar level, in the sense of drawing a distinction between national essence and national location. Meditation on Nakai shows the philosopher writing at the height of a fascist dictatorship and still managing to acknowledge his contemporary moment in relation to global philosophy; this strategy, according to Lucken, marks the origin of Japanese New Left theory. Nakai manages to present us with a logic of history "without origin or end and yet always on the verge of upheaval." In this regard Nakai was a theorist of voluntarism. Maoism may not, as Lucken contends, have been a major influence, but Nakai's thesis on the importance of ki (气) and relational politics echoes Mao's revolutionary optimism and his thesis on situated practice.
Several essays in this volume also note contemporary collapsed binary constructions in scholarship. Spakowski and Lucken do, each in their own way, but Hanmee Na Kim, Meera Lee, Haerin Shin, Emily Wilcox, and Etsko Kasai also work in what is assuredly a post–Cold War world. Each seems to puzzle out how to acknowledge perception, or what seems to be a general sense of experiential emotion. Mastering this relational rather than conflictual scholarly method changes how we grasp not only our contemporary moment but also the contemporary moments of the past. As Lucken points out, Nakai was a theorist of immanence, a humanist Marxist like Walter Benjamin who also failed to ignite a sustainable political left. Our [End Page 550] conditions may be worse than theirs, since ours seem "almost impervious to critical deconstruction."
Linking social theory and history of social institutions, Ryan Moran's "Delivering Security in Modern Japan: Postal Life Insurance and Social Unrest" points out that the catachreses "society" and "the social" fed into Japanese modernist governmentality. The newly organizing Meiji government made a crooked promise to the proletariat that if it followed all the new rules, it would get a chance to buy social insurance. Moran explains that out of fears that the new working class might provoke extreme measures in its labor agitation, state-oriented social theorists developed a European-like state insurance scheme and placed the bureaucracy in the new post office. Social insurance had several policy aims. One attempted to monetize risk to workers under appalling labor conditions; another aim was to promise a paternalistic government-style communitarianism; and a third, drawing on ideologies about "freedom" and "choice," wanted to incentivize proletarianized rural-to-urban...