From Shanghai Modern to Shanghai Postmodern: A Cosmopolitan View of China’s Modernization

Ning Wang’s “From Shanghai Modern to Shanghai Postmodern: A Cosmopolitan View of China’s Modernization” appears in Telos 180 (Fall 2017), a special issue on Cosmopolitanism and China. Read the full article at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue in our online store. Individual subscriptions to Telos are now available in both print and online formats.

To discuss the issue of cosmopolitanism in the Chinese context is, as in the Western context, no longer new to China’s humanities intellectuals, for this issue once did attract Chinese intellectuals in the 1920s when nationalism dominated Chinese academia and intellectual circles. Furthermore, it indeed had some parallel elements in ancient Chinese philosophy. It is therefore quite natural that cosmopolitanism was not so attractive when China, according to Dr. Sun Yat-sen, was not qualified enough to talk about cosmopolitanism as it was still poor and backward at the time. In the current era of globalization, along with the increasingly important role played by China and its leaders, more and more scholars have been paying considerable attention to this issue with regard to global culture and world literature.

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Zygmunt Bauman, the Left, and Modernity

Premised on the Left’s fundamental inability to dissociate itself from the ideals of the bourgeois revolution, Zygmunt Bauman’s “The Left as the Counter-Culture of Modernity” introduces the notion of reconstituting “the Left as the counter-culture of modernism,” rather than as the “counter-culture of capitalism.” Bauman makes the case for this repositioning because, in his view, there is no historical agent to carry out an anti-capitalist program. However, by continuing to defend and maintain the Left’s core values of individual autonomy and political democracy, Bauman believes that the Left can identify the barriers preventing their realization in the present neoliberal paradigm. Bauman recounts the Left’s courtship with various strategies, namely, the heterodox critique of capitalist practice and professed affinity with the industrial working class, and the recent flirtation with postmodern theory. By examining each as it addresses the present historical paradigm, he emphasizes the need to rehabilitate the values of the Leftist program and search for alternative strategies to realize them.

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Art and Industrial Production

In “Art and Industrial Production,” from Telos 57 (Fall 1983), philosopher Albrecht Wellmer provides an ethical-aesthetic account of art and industrial production by analyzing the nature of their intersection in twentieth-century architecture. Wellmer charts parallel trajectories of philosophical thought and architectural endeavors, from the progressive aims of the German Arts and Craft Society through a critical response in postmodern principles of design. Through explicating the recurrent failure of realizing ethical praxes in both modern and postmodern architecture, Wellmer reorients the discordance of industrialized art production and the goals of living subjects from an overestimation of “production-aesthetics” to an insufficient account of “use-aesthetics.” Wellmer’s exegesis conveys an urgency of revising and clarifying the sociopolitical affordances of design and production in order to advocate for an ethical communication of industrial culture.

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