Lu Xun is perhaps the most studied figure in modern Chinese literature and there has been a great deal of debate about interpreting his work. However, scholars have paid insufficient attention to the way in which readings of Lu Xun serve as a lens from which to examine political interventions in response to global transformations and more specifically to the global logic of capitalism. The path-breaking works of Takeuchi Yoshimi and Wang Hui are especially thought provoking in this respect since they each wrote about Lu Xun to intervene in the politics of their times. More specifically Takeuchi and Wang each drew on Lu Xun to develop a new vision of politics at times when narratives and processes associated with the nation-state and capitalism eclipsed critical political practice. Intellectuals in both interwar Japan and post-Mao China stressed an evolutionary vision of modernity with which they criticized their present and immediate past: imperial fascism and feudalism in Japan, and the Cultural Revolution in 1980s and 1990s China. In both the works of Takeuchi and Wang, Lu Xun evinces a resistance to evolutionary or progressive narratives of history. In this essay, I read Takeuchi and Wang's respective interpretations of Lu Xun as responding to the cultural logic of global capitalism.
Takeuchi and Wang each appeal to feeling or irrationality to develop a vision of Lu Xun as resisting modernity. For Takeuchi, Lu Xun symbolized not only the Chinese revolution itself, but also a more fundamental defiance of European history and epistemology. Since this history as rationalizing modernity was expanding and encompassed the very formation of the self, Takeuchi argued that resistance implied self-realization through self-negation and that Lu Xun embodied this paradoxical practice.
In the mid-1990s, when the neoliberal phase of capitalism was transforming social relations in China, Wang invoked Takeuchi's interpretation of Lu Xun and more explicitly confronted the dynamic of capitalism. In Wang's view, the nature of intellectual production in capitalist society tends to fore-close the possibility of politics. However, he claims that Lu Xun's writings and practices represent a time when Chinese intellectuals were more closely connected to social movements and thus present the possibility of radical transformation.