The Magic of Concepts : History and the Economic in Twentieth-Century China
Rebecca E. Karl is Associate Professor of History at New York University. She is the author of Mao Zedong and China in the Twentieth-Century World: A Concise History and Staging the World: Chinese Nationalism at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, and co-translator (with Xueping Zhong) of Cai Xiang's Revolution andIts Narratives: China’s Socialist Literary and Cultural Imaginaries, 1949-1966, all also published by Duke University Press. She co-translated and coedited (with Lydia H. Liu and Dorothy Ko) The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory.
In The Magic of Concepts Rebecca E. Karl interrogates "the economic" as concept and practice as it was construed historically in China in the 1930s and again in the 1980s and 1990s. Separated by the Chinese Revolution and Mao's socialist experiments, each era witnessed urgent discussions about how to think about economic concepts derived from capitalism in modern China. Both eras were highly cosmopolitan and each faced its own global crisis in economic and historical philosophy: in the 1930s, capitalism's failures suggested that socialism offered a plausible solution, while the abandonment of socialism five decades later provoked a rethinking of the relationship between history and the economic as social practice. Interweaving a critical historiography of modern China with the work of the Marxist-trained economist Wang Yanan, Karl shows how "magical concepts" based on dehistoricized Eurocentric and capitalist conceptions of historical activity that purport to exist outside lived experiences have erased much of the critical import of China's twentieth-century history. In this volume, Karl retrieves the economic to argue for a more nuanced and critical account of twentieth-century Chinese and global historical practice.
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