While the precarious future of humanist values was anticipated by leading Western intellectuals well before the turn of the century, the concern of Chinese intellectuals about the vulnerability of the “spirit of humanism” (renwen jingshen) was only highlighted in the literary magazine “Dushu”, some twenty years after Deng Xiaoping’s programmatic vision of China’s role in the ‘brave new world’ of global market economy. The initial concern with regard to the morality of the unrestrained surge of consumerism, “commodity fetishism” and the overt political promotion of a free market ideology, that is, Western capitalism, climaxed between 1992-1994 in an open discussion in which the collective purpose the intellectual as social critic in the public arena was forcefully articulated. Regrettably, the hopes pinned on globalisation in this matter, in the East and the West, have not been realized. On the contrary, the future of the humanities and the humanistic consciousness of intellectuals is more bleak and uncertain than ever before. This paper attempts to elucidate and explore both, the commitment and the failure of the Chinese intelligentsia (literati) in defense of humanistic values in a market-driven consumer-society, or what Noam Chomsky refers to as the “responsibilities of intellectuals”.
|Keywords:||Chinese Intellectuals, Humanist Values, Spirit of Humanism, Globalism, Market Ideology, Chinese Society|
Convenor of Chinese, School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia
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