New: Journal of Social and Political Philosophy
The Journal of Social and Political Philosophy (JSPP) is a new peer-reviewed journal that aims to serve as a “forum in which to address the new challenges facing social and political thought in the twenty-first century.”
The result of an initiative by the School of Philosophy at Wuhan University and published by Edinburgh University Press, JSPP is the first English language academic journal of social and political philosophy based in China. The journal is edited by Paul Patton (Wuhan).
The first issue was published a few months ago.
In an editorial, Professor Patton writes that the journal
provides a new forum in which to address the philosophical dimensions of global social and political challenges. These include classical problems of political and social philosophy such as the justification and legitimacy ofgovernment, its nature, function and limits; the nature and justification of justice, freedom,equality, individual and collective rights; responses to inequalities of condition and status between sexes, races and other social groups. In addition, they include issues arising in the context of the transition to more sustainable forms of production and consumption, the effects of global warming, the economic development of East Asia and the social changes this produces, and the emergence of new centres of cultural and political power in the East. They also include issues raised by the ongoing movements of decolonization and reparations for past injustices, along with a range of issues arising from the moral, social and technological innovations of the late twentieth century and those that will occur in the twenty-first century.This sample of contemporary challenges that raise difficult issues calling for analysis and comment is by no means comprehensive and not intended to exclude discussion of other issues in social and political philosophy…
JSPP aims to provide an inclusive forum for social and political theorists and philosophers that will extend the range and depth of constructive engagements between East Asian and Western social and political thought. As a broad spectrum journal of social and political philosophy JSPP publishes high quality material regardless of philosophical, ideological or methodological orientation. We welcome contributions drawing on analytic, continental, critical, feminist, genealogical, realist, moralist and other approaches. As well as original contributions drawing on established literatures in social and political philosophy and theory, JSPP will provide a venue for original contributions from a range of disciplines, traditions and civilizational perspectives. We seek to promote informed cross-cultural conversation between different traditions and approaches to social and political thought. Contributions to the history of social and political thought are welcome where these bear on issues of contemporary concern.
The journal will be published on a Green Open Access basis, according to which authors are allowed to place a pre-publication version of their contribution on their personal or departmental web page and in their institutional repository indefinitely, and in non-commercial subject repository for up to one year following publication in print.
You can learn more about the journal here.
Will this journal be open to publishing philosophical work that challenges the autocratic, repressive Chinese government, “the people’s democratic dictatorship” (in the words of the Preamble to the Constitution of the PRC)?
Will they publish work by people who are and have been outspoken about the authoritarian repression in Hong Kong and Taiwan?
Will they adhere to principles of academic integrity and academic freedom, which are currently not adhered to by Wuhan University?
Can the editors of this journal make a public statement about these things?Report
The editors should answer these questions immediately or we will report them to the Party headquarters.
More seriously: it can’t be that we will engage the current Chinese academia only if they explicitly and fully adhere to norms of academic freedom that we enjoy in the US, Canada, UK, etc. Obviously, editors of the journal would get in trouble if they explicitly endorsed the things Guerrero wants them to endorse. At best, we can hope that they will try to open a channel for engagement between scholars active in China and the rest of the world. They cannot do that by saying things like “we will publish work by people who are and have been outspoken about the authoritarian repression in Hong Kong.” And we would be punishing them twice by boycotting them for not doing what we can do here.Report
China is incredibly concerned to elevate their academic institutions to a global level. By not holding them to a serious standard here, by just going along with their practices, those who engage with them serve only to reputation-wash those institutions, practices, and the PRC.
Also, in dealing with those who manage to gain power in these institutions, we are dealing with those who have been willing to ‘play ball’ in various ways, often at great cost to those who would dissent even in small ways.
A political philosophy journal emanating from these circumstances is highly suspect, at least without evidence to the contrary:
“Cao Zhenhua has experienced the restraints firsthand. In 2018, he was fired as a lecturer at Guizhou Minzu University after being accused of questioning the current relevance of Marxism in a seminar.”
This article suggests that–contrary to what we might hope or predict–increased efforts at global prominence in academia have actually been coupled with a serious crackdown on academic freedom.
There are many channels for engagement. We live in a globally interconnected world. By supporting and not explicitly challenging these institutions and their practices, taking their money, publishing in them if we are doing work that they are willing to publish, and so on, we are not promoting engagement, we are legitimizing these institutions and their practices.Report
Thanks for the informative response. I agree with some of what you say or at least will have to think/lean more about it. But I don’t think it’s obvious that people living in China should be outspoken critics instead of reformists who ‘play ball’. It’s a difficult moral/political choice and it won’t help if we pretended that the reformists are just opportunists who we should be dismissedReport
Yes, I may have come on too strong regarding what people inside ought to be doing. Those are difficult choices. But I don’t think it’s as hard to see what we should be doing. We should be clear: if you want to be a globally serious university, you have to abide by norms of academic freedom.
It is possible that this journal will help to move things in those directions. I worry it will just contain a lot of ‘China is just another *kind* of democracy’ or ‘true authentic freedom comes through submission to the wise leaders’ or ‘capitalism is evil, let us count the ways’ but I am excited about the possibility that it might be otherwise.
It will be interesting to see what they publish over the next few years.Report
Well a cursory reading of my paper in the first issue would have indicated the journal has no problem in publishing work that criticizes authoritian rule and defending fundamental liberties, and it’s salience to China would have been pretty bloody obvious for anyone capable of reading even a little between the lines. I might also note that I have been fairly vocal about China’s repression in Hong Kong and oppression of the Uighurs on Twitter if that counts, even though my main focus is on refugees.Report
Perhaps more interestingly, would a paper like this one be publishable in this journal?
It uses an instance of Taiwanese public policy as an example raising a challenge for a popular view in epistemology. It doesn’t obviously seem to involve any policies that are in direct challenge to PRC government policy, other than by being local Taiwanese policy.
It’s obviously a problem if a lot of major journals would refuse to publish papers because of considerations like this. It’s less obviously a problem if there are one or two such journals, if the existence of those journals creates new opportunities for engagement with the rest of the world for people living under relevant governments.Report
For anyone who’s actually interested in this issue rather than the moral grandstanding that typically accompanies it, this journal has, in its first issue, published work by at least one person who is and has been outspoken about Taiwan.
One more thing: could people please stop using “we” in a way that suggests those of us who are living in China are somehow unable to read and post on the Daily Nous?Report
At least in my posts, ‘we’ just meant those of us who are not working at a university in China. The questions in my initial post were not rhetorical; I was hoping that Paul Patton, Thomas Besch, James Gordon Finlayson, Jun-Hyeok Kwak, Yong Li, Zhi Li, and Elena Ziliotti might be DN readers and be able to answer them.
It is my sincere hope that this journal can function like other journals in other places. There are probably very few people outside of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong (and who do not have personal connections to those places) who are more genuinely interested in that than me.
The first issue also has an extended symposium on Tongdong Bai’s interesting and provocative Confucian philosophical apologia for the PRC, with critics who are not all that critical. But look, that’s a fine start, and it’s an important and interesting book. But if the next symposium is on Daniel Bell (fine work though it is), and if there are never any articles actually constituting criticism of authoritarian government or drawing attention to corruption and crony capitalism or raising questions about academic freedom or objecting to the PRC’s crushing of dissent and political freedom in Hong Kong, this will start to look like one kind of thing, rather than another.
I will say that it is also not a great look for the first issue to be so heavily comprised of articles and pieces authored by members of the Editorial Board and the Advisory Board. But it’s a new journal, and perhaps it was hard to get enough submissions. But that would seem another thing to keep an eye on, given that it’s ostensibly a double-anonymous reviewed journal.
But perhaps some of your colleagues might reply to my questions above?Report
“Tongdong Bai’s interesting and provocative Confucian philosophical apologia for the PRC,” Where did you get the “apologia” part?Report
From reading it?
Happy to say more: invite me to contribute an additional article to the symposium…
For what it’s worth, I would say similar things about plenty of democratic theory (and Rawlsian theory in particular) serving as philosophical apologia for US-style constitutional democracy. Report
Reading it or projecting your own bias onto it? “If he is in China and/or Chinese, he must have been a PRC apologist.” Doesn’t this sound a bit racist?Report
The inference “if he is in China and/or Chinese, he must be a PRC apologist” sounds super-racist, not just a bit racist.
But surely you can see how some of the ideas defended in your book might be seen as congenial to the PRC, compared to, say, the US system of government? If not, I’m happy to write up my contribution drawing out some of those connections more explicitly. I can’t imagine I’m the first person to point this out. (Indeed, I know very well that I am not.)Report
Let me say again: I find your book excellent and very interesting! Like all the very best philosophy, it is important and useful for bringing out one’s own assumptions and biases more clearly. I think we could have a very productive and fruitful conference or exchange about your book and the relation of your ideas to contemporary debates about the legitimacy of the PRC and concerns about electoral democracy in the US and elsewhere. It might be hoped that this exchange could even take place in the pages of this new journal. At any rate, I look forward to our paths crossing at some point in person, so that we might continue these discussions as we think through concepts of political morality and consider their application to different kinds of political systems and institutional forms.Report
No, you are no the person to make this accusation of my book, but as we both know, that doesn’t mean the accusation has any validity, right? In the Introduction of my book, I explicitly stated that I am not in any way discussing the so-called China models, if there are such models in the first place. I rarely, if ever, use cases in contemporary China to illustrate or support my arguments. I said that in reality, what comes closest to my proposal of a hybrid regime that combines meritocratic elements with democratic ones is the American regime at its founding (minus a lot of evils such as slavery and the exclusion of women and the poor from voting). In terms of my proposal for global governance, what comes closest to my proposal is what Rawls did in the Law of Peoples. In general, I consider myself to be a philosopher, someone who works on normative theories. Of course, we may well be not lovers of wisdom, but of our own wisdom. But we can try to distance ourselves from our prejudices, right? So, there might be some apology for PRC implicit in my arguments, in spite of my own explicit statements that say otherwise. But please find them before claiming that I am an apologist for anything. I am an apologist for myself.Report
I should say, just to be as clear as possible, I did not mean to suggest that you were an apologist for the PRC in the sense of intentionally trying to carry ideological water for them (I don’t know what to say or think about Daniel Bell on this front), any more than Rawls was an apologist for the US government.
Still, I think philosophical work can serve as an effective ideological defense for a particular political system or government, even if the author of that work did not intend for it to have that function, and even if that requires extending or misreading or ignoring some parts of that work. Rawls saw himself as a significant critic of US policy, even if (as I think) some of what he focused on as central and some of what he ignored or focused on much less made it easier to offer a normative foundation for and defense of the contemporary form of Democratic liberalism that ignores–and continues to ignore–problems of racism, colonialism, elite capture, and much else.
And there is the further point that what work will be rewarded and supported in a particular academic/economic/political environment is also a function of what work is seen as ‘friendly enough’ to the powers that be. That’s true everywhere. And it is more true to the extent that principles of academic freedom are eroded, disrespected, and undermined. This is something that we are starting to see more of in the United States, particularly in ‘red’ states, so it is certainly not a concern that is unique to China, although my impression is that respect for academic freedom, particularly along political lines, is significantly weaker there.
The case I know best is that of Cuba. You can’t really study or teach social and political philosophy there in a serious way unless you are focused just on Marx or developing Marxist lines of thought. Some of that work is excellent, as far as it goes. Some of it even opens up avenues for relatively gentle criticism of the Cuban government. But you can’t at all pursue political philosophy in an open way, or argue for anti-Marxist views, or defend even highly regulated forms of capitalist systems, or argue that the Castros ruled in despotic, anti-Marxist ways, etc., etc. So, those who make it to the top in educational institutions there either (a) have intentionally conformed their views to the party line or (b) just happen to have views that are ‘friendly enough’ to the party line. I never understood how members of the Radical Philosophy Association could so happily meet in Cuba to talk philosophy when they knew that the only people they could talk to there were those who were willing to parrot the party line. Not very radical, if you ask me.
I don’t mean to be opining on what people who love philosophy or would like to be academics ought to do when living and attempting to work under these circumstances. It seems clearly courageous and in a certain sense good when people speak up in favor of academic freedom, even at significant cost to their careers. But that might well be supererogatory. (Much respect to ‘a young Chinese philosopher’ below.)
And perhaps it is even bad, tactically; perhaps it is better to ‘work from the inside’ to attempt to change things. These are very difficult decisions, and I’ve seen people in these environments struggle with them, and they turn sometimes on complex empirical questions about what might actually bring about change. (I have also seen people who eventually do just come to accept the party line, after so many years of benefitting from doing so, so that they are no longer working from within the system to change it, they just are the system.)
Writing as someone from outside these environments, where I have a remarkable and even luxurious amount of academic freedom and job security, I see it as important to hold up these values of academic freedom as of vital importance, particularly given that those living without them are not in a position to do so, and particularly since it is completely clear that Chinese leadership is very invested in having globally serious academic institutions, and in having those academic institutions be partnered with other globally important academic institutions.
So, if I were Tim Williamson, giving 8 fancy invited lectures at Wuhan University (and, I imagine, being paid some non-trivial sum to do so), I would have made at least one of those lectures be about the importance of academic freedom (making it clear that those who invited him had no idea he would do this, and figuring out ways of making sure that any repercussions visited upon them would be the subject of my next ten public lectures and articles in the international press). It strikes me as a bad form of complicity and reputation-washing to say nothing. Others might see value in engagement on any terms–and it’s not nothing, of course. But I worry that willingness to engage, just accepting without comment these very bad terms, even when we are in a position to comment on them, is a way of further entrenching those terms. This is all the more true when (a) we live in a highly interconnected world, so that there are other unofficial means of engagement available; people aren’t entirely cut off from the outside no matter what; and (b) Chinese leadership is evidently desperate for validation of their academic institutions and global acceptance of their institutions.
With that, I have probably said more than enough already on this thread (and made it very unlikely that I will keep getting these invitations to teach in China over the summer!)…Report
Daniel Bell is an apologist for PRC. But Tongdong Bai is not. I say this both as someone who is seriously critical of Bai’s philosophy and politics (see my criticism here: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/politics-and-religion/article/from-the-specter-of-polygamy-to-the-spectacle-of-postcoloniality-a-response-to-bai-on-confucianism-liberalism-and-the-samesex-marriage-debate/22A9F5DFB7E285BECC0B09FAE889EC6B ) and as someone who speaks out against the CCP and suffers consequences for that.Report
Thanks, “a young Chinese philosopher,” for saying this, although I still don’t agree with you on your disagreement with me:)Report
As a Hongkonger and philosophy student I’m interested to know what Professor Peter Finocchiaro considers to be “moral grandstanding” so I know when not to discuss the authoritarian oppression and threats to my personal safety that I have to navigate on a regular basis. Also when is it safe for me to mention, say, the Uyghur genocide, or Tibetans or Taiwanese since I’m not one of these people? I was very naive to think the NSL police was the only thing I had to navigate.
I submit that a greater problem than any supposed moral grandstanding is moral whitewashing.
Now you said it… Otherwise few people would have known it…Report
“By supporting and not explicitly challenging these institutions and their practices, taking their money, publishing in them if we are doing work that they are willing to publish, and so on, we are not promoting engagement, we are legitimizing these institutions and their practices.”
So it ultimately boils down to how we are to determine whether they actually are part of the authoritarian repression (which is the premise here). It’d be really nice if they weren’t. But the operative standard, here, really isn’t that obvious, as far as I can see. It’s sometimes hard to draw the line, especially in a place where *making explicit* might instead invite severe reverse effects of doing further harm to the already-poor academic freedom and integrity. Making explicit might as well come across as excessively demanding, morally, too, for Chinese nationals on the editorial board. So it (at least to me) seems okay if they do not make explicit statements of this kind (e.g., “we will publish work by people who are and have been outspoken about such-and-such issues”), so long as they do make academic judgments not based off of political standpoints. This too is a way of countering authoritarian repressive practices—less “virtuous” than explicit dissent, it might be said—but it might enjoy an overall greater state of affairs.Report
This is a very fair and important point. Thank you for making it. And I agree: I’d be very happy with no public statements but letting the journal’s commitments on this score shine through in what they publish.
Most of my own work is highly critical of US legal and political institutions in various ways, and so, without any such public commitment, I might be disinclined to send that work to a journal that I thought might be serving basically as a subtle, suitably academic arm of the PRC ideological machine.
But I and others should certainly send them our work that is interestingly critical of pseudo-meritocratic governance, technocracy, leader worship, and repression of political minorities, and which is in defense of rights of self-determination, religious and associational freedom, freedom of movement, transparency and real political accountability, and so on.
And it will be easy enough to see what they publish over the next several years.Report
Thanks for this. The disinclination part sounds very legitimate. I share the sentiment. And yet reflecting on the articles in the first issue I tend to think, again, that it wasn’t at all clear this journal was set up as a party arm in the first place. Tan’s article defends democracy over counter-traditions. Besch’s article is making a case for Rawlsian political liberalism; both of which are defending genuine, substantive liberal values. (Bai, on the other hand, is also making a clase against prevailing political morality of the Party.) Overall it appears to be more on the positive side than the negative.
In any event, many eyes on kept on its second issue.Report
I refer you to my earlier replyReport
While these seem important questions that should (and I hope can) be answered, the way they are raised somehow makes it sound a bit like the inquirers are the judges in a court and the editorial board is facing a trial, which is a bit disrespectful. (I do not assume any ill intention on the part of AG though, who is probably more informed about academic practice in Wuhan & China than I am.)Report
I’m a undergraduate student in philosophy from China, I’m still a junior so my English is quite poor(sorry for that). I really value this discussion (also the discussion below the article on the Philosophy Cocoon), but some of the comments below make me feel disappointed.
It seems that few people really care about Chinese students. What they are thinking, what they have lost, what they need, what they can be, and it seems that people don’t really care about what I mention above. Instead, more people care about the policies and abstract social phenomena.
I sincerely hope that philosophers in the international academy, if you really care about the philosophy academic community elsewhere than English-speaking World, might pay more notice to concrete and specific people rather than abstract objects. Because I deeply aware that it is easy to stand on the moral high ground, but it is difficult to face the dilemma just in front of you.
Again, thank you all for great discussion, which has been very beneficial and valuable to me.Report
C’mon people. It’s a new journal. Be encouraging and supportive. If there is a pattern of problematic behavior, then call them out if you want. What’s the rush? Also, regarding all the tough talk and tough demands, do you really know what’s like to live and work under communism? I do. One often has to walk a fine line. People do get imprisoned and even disappear for saying/publishing certain things about the government. Niceties such as academic integrity and academic freedom may or may not apply. Does that mean one should shut up? No. Does that mean some sort of constructive/critical engagement (again, a delicate dance) may still be worthwhile? Yes. Let’s give our friends over there some breathing room to operate and, yes, hold them accountable.Report
Not just any new journal in not just any country whose recent history over free expression is very much in doubt. Prof Guerrero’s questions seem entirely fair given things like our actual sociopolitical global context and, we can hope, that perhaps the fact that people like him who were brave enough to ask these questions from the start might help keep this journal from becoming what he fears it might become. C’mon people!Report
Someone who is working in the U.S. made such a demand. Tell me where the brave part comes in. Say something against the cancel culture while in an American university, or defend abortion right in the deep South, then talk about bravery.Report
Yes, even I had to read that part as sarcastic! It takes no bravery to raise questions about China in the US. Now, to write a whole book about getting rid of elections (forthcoming, 2023…), that takes courage…
On the other hand, for real courage (not just like cancel culture warriors in the US), see people like Qiao Mu, Cao Zhenhua, Yang Shaozheng, You Shengdong, Shi Jiepeng, and other Chinese academics who have spoken out about the repression and lack of academic freedom in Chinese academic institutions.
As someone who’s studied in China: Wuhan University’s philosophy department is one of the few that’s relatively liberal and international (these two usually come together in China). Congrats on setting up this journal.
Under the current political environment in China, I’d be impressed if, say, 20% of the journal’s articles can be non-authoritarian. We who work in “the west” really shouldn’t set the bar too high – that will only add more difficulty to an already delicate balance.
That said, I’m also worried if the journal will publish exclusively or almost exclusively pro-authoritarian stuff, which is possible. Supporting authoritarianism per se is of course not the issue; I actually think authoritarianism has merits that are much underappreciated in “the west”. But in China’s current climate where authoritarian propaganda penetrates the academia, setting up one more journal that’s all pro-authotarian is worse than having nothing.Report
I think Prof. Guerrero’s concern makes a lot of sense and we’ll see if the journal will make moves to address it in its future publications (p.s. I really enjoy reading some of your papers on moral philosophy).
As a first-year graduate student, my first academic publication is in this journal. I sincerely hope that people will engage with each individual author’s views, raising challenges based on their arguments, rather than holding a prima facie distrustful attitude simply because it is published in a place that is commonly depicted in a negative light in Western media.
I read a lot of German philosophy. There are many German philosophers whose written works were broadly well received in the Anglophone academia, even though some of these works are shadowed by political views that are considered as seriously problematic. After all, people in the English-speaking world have shown the courtesy to evaluate/criticize these philosophers fairly (which makes everybody want to pursue an academic career there!).
That makes me wonder if politics is the only thing that shadows people’s reactive attitudes towards this new journal—I kind of worry whether a certain extent of Sinophobia is also merged into it. Report
Not just Sinophobia but also some sort of colonialist mindset that prejudges you as uncivilized, unworthy, or otherwise inferior, and that expects (no, demands) that you explain or justify yourself and what you’re doing. Given the evidence we have at this point, why can’t we start from a position of assuming that the journal in question makes, or is poised to make, a positive contribution to the cosmopolitan conversation about various important issues in social and political philosophy? Of course, that assumption can be and should be undermined by sufficient determinate evidence to the contrary, but at this point, do we have that evidence?Report
Was Kant allowed to openly speak against Frederick II? Not likely. Has Kant ever attempted to speak against Frederick II? It doesn’t seem so. Should these constraints Kant was facing give people reason to degrade the theoretical value of Kant’s social and political thoughts? That sounds ridiculous. Of course, most people would skip the parts when he was flattering the monarch, but still, it wouldn’t make the beginning statements in his What is Enlightenment less compelling. If you are German, the constraint you are facing is just the “context” your readers are obliged to understand. If you are Chinese, however, the constraint you are facing makes people question whether your publication is worth reading.Report
Note Frederick’s statement in the same year as Kants essay that a ‘private person has no right to pass public and perhaps even disapproving judgement on the actions, procedures, laws, regulations, and ordinances of sovereigns and courts, their officials, assemblies, and courts of law, or to promulgate or publish in print pertinent reports which he manages to obtain. For a private person is not at all capable of making such a judgement, because he lacks complete knowledge of circumstances and motives.’ (cited in Habermas, 1989: 25)Report
This doesn’t speak to your point, but it does contextualise Kant’s essay.Report
I don’t really have any substance to add to the discussion that’s already been ongoing. Instead, I want to make a sociological observation: whether we’re talking about a journal founded in China, or experiences related to philosophers working in China, there is a tendency for the discussion to focus exclusively on the moral legitimacy of such endeavors.
This tendency is, to some extent, understandable, for reasons that have already been articulated in this thread. And here I will put accusations of Sinophobia, colonialism, moral grandstanding, etc. to one side; yet it is worth reflecting on the utility of such a discourse that is fundamentally premised on viewing any academic endeavors happening in China as inalienable from endeavors about China. I worry this framing and by extension the discourse demands an unrealistic amount of “moral clarity” that is simply detached from the complexities of moral and/or political reality on the ground. Establishing journals in China, training philosophy students in China, etc. provide tremendous benefits to scholars and students who live in the authoritarian, repressive regime. I’m thinking of the students in particular here, many of whom are hard-working, smart, and intellectually curious, for whom any exposure to non-orthodox thinking, exchange of ideas is a scarce resource. Guess what is not a scarce resource? Being able to publish an article “that challenges the autocratic, repressive Chinese government” for a US-based philosopher.
(I will note that in the linked Philosophers’ Cocoon post, the majority of the commentators were discussing whether it was morally acceptable to work in China; LYF, a Chinese student’s perspective on how s/he benefited from having Western-trained professors, was completely ignored except for one commentator who made a point about the perspective being ignored!)Report
The comments to Peter Finocchiaro’s post are shocking. I was saddened to learn that we who have a Chinese background or/and want to pursue an academic career in China are seen as having a kind of original sin. Report
Not sure exactly what this comment is referring to, but I will say that, for my part, my comments were directed (a) at those with power in Chinese academic institutions who are responsible for or complicit in enforcing an anti-academic freedom ideological test, firing people who speak out on behalf of academic freedom or on behalf of Hong Kong or Taiwan or repression by the PRC, employing in-classroom surveillance monitors to ensure ideological conformity, and so on; and (b) those of us working outside of Chinese academic institutions, or voluntarily choosing to work with those institutions in various capacities, who might influence the direction of academic freedom in China by the way in which we speak or participate in these partnerships.
I’m not sure that those in (a) are always acting in ways for which they are blameworthy (they may have few good options, there might be grave threats bearing down on them, etc.), but they are acting in ways that are bad, even if not blameworthy.
With respect to (b), I think we are in a better position to suggest that some ways of partnering with repressive institutions are blameworthy in addition to being bad, but the details obviously matter.
In neither case do I think any of this potential criticism applies to students and others who are relatively or entirely powerless working within China (including those who might publish in this or other journals, or who might accept various academic positions even within institutions that are anti-academic freedom). Indeed, outside criticism of these institutions is completely supportive of the protests of many of those very students, say, at Fudan University, who object to the enshrinement of CCP control of academics and the elimination of what little academic freedom there had been.
I do think elite, globally-renown named chair professors at Fudan University and Wuhan University and other eminent universities in China may have comparably more power to influence things than beginning students–perhaps particularly those like Paul Patton who have moved to China recently and who are not Chinese nationals–but perhaps not.
Many professors do speak up, however, even at some cost to their careers. I assume they have done so because they believed that they might make a difference in doing so, in part by bringing attention to the increased crackdown on academic freedom under Xi Jinping.
“The move is part of a broader trend that has been growing since 2013, the year Xi Jinping became China’s president. From 2013 to 2017, at least 109 universities unveiled their first-ever charters, affirming party leadership, according to NPR’s analysis. The new charters effectively hand the party ultimate control over the schools’ administration, mirroring how the party dominates government agencies.”
None of this is about Sinophobia or colonialism or original sin. It’s just about authoritarian communist politics and academic freedom, and it’s a story that has been told many other places, too: Cuba, the Soviet Union, East Germany.Report
Professor Guerrero, thanks for taking the time to engage. You tend to richly source what you say and I appreciate that. Regarding your last paragraph: Can you give a specific instance of a comparable first English-language academic journal of (social and political) philosophy based in Cuba, the Soviet Union, or East Germany provoking the kind of reaction captured in your posts, especially your first post, and perhaps in a number of other posts whose authors seem to approve your reaction? Thank you.Report
I do not know of any such journals ever existing, so it follows that I also don’t know of any such journals provoking a reaction of this (or any other) kind!
A partial explanation here is that the world post 1991 (post collapse of the USSR) is considerably more globally interconnected and authoritarian regimes now are more concerned about global public image, have sophisticated English-language operations on social media (trolls, bots, 50c party), and so on. East Germany, Cuba, and the USSR would not have supported a genuinely free, academically serious English-language academic journal covering topics in social and political philosophy.
It is exciting and genuinely surprising that this might be happening in China, particularly given the recent crackdowns on academic freedom I have posted about at length above. But of course China has allowed all kinds of market reforms that were never allowed in East Germany or USSR, so we should be open-minded about what might be allowed in relatively elite spaces.
As David Owen points out, the first issue is somewhat encouraging in this regard. Like many others, I look forward to seeing future issues and perhaps further clarification concerning the journal’s editorial policies (given the high proportion of articles in the first issue that were authored by people with an editorial connection to the journal).
I do know that I have spoken out vocally for years (since I was just starting out as a student in philosophy myself!) about the Radical Philosophy Association’s decision to regularly meet in Havana with academics based at the University of Havana, where these events are closely monitored by the communist party in Cuba, academics at the University of Havana working in social/political philosophy are required to toe the Marxist party line, those Cuban students and would-be academics who have spoken out against this repression and lack of academic freedom have been imprisoned, and so on. As an added bonus, academic groups such as the RPA who travel to Cuba also do so in a way that is controlled and structured through Gaviota, the state-run tourist enterprise, which itself is directly controlled by GAESA, a Cuban-military controlled enterprise. So, academics who go to conferences in Cuba in this way are directly handing over money to the Cuban military, which itself is directly responsible for the continued repression and lack of political freedom that exists in Cuba.
For those in the (b) group I described above, themselves outside of the group most subject to direct repression and living and working under that repression, it strikes me as bad to engage in this way, on these terms, at least without also calling out those terms as objectionable or (perhaps in some circumstances) making serious efforts behind the scenes to alter those terms. In the case of the RPA, I know that no such behind the scenes efforts were made; indeed, RPA members have often simply parroted official Cuban government propaganda about the legitimacy of enforcing Marxist ideology in academic institutions such as the University of Havana as a way of countering the threat of “Yankee imperialist colonialist influence.”Report
Thank you, Professor Guerrero, for your helpful clarification. As an aside, I’d like to mention that, in the context of Vietnam, whose modern history I know (and have lived through) a bit, there were many patriotic Vietnamese who opposed all of communism, imperialism, and colonialism. So, while they were not friends of communism, they did not welcome “imperialist colonialist influence,” “Yankee” or otherwise, either, and vice versa. I suspect this was not unique to Vietnam.Report
On the fact that the first issue contains much by people connected to it, there is a long complicated story here about the genesis of the journal, but the short version is that the publisher wanted a full issue up front to launch journal.
I am happy to see Alex Guerrero acknowledge that the first issue provides no grounds for concern and perhaps that might have been the first point to make in the opening post. The editorial guidelines are pretty clear it seems to me and I would have no wish to be tied to a journal that did not publish a wide range of material in the same way as two other journals I am on the editorial board of, namely, Political Theory and European Journal of Political Theory, and I expect the same here.Report
Thanks for your reply. I think you misunderstood me. I was referring to the comments to Peter Finocchiaro’s post on Philosophers’ Cocoon “What’s it like to be a foreign philosopher in mainland China?”, which is mentioned by “Observer”.
Actually I agree with you for the most part. I believe there is nothing about Sinophobia or colonialism in your comments. And I don’t think you would agree with “anonymous” on Philosophers’ Cocoon, who seems to equate pursuing an academic career in China with supporting the authoritarian regime.
I share your concern that the journal may not be open enough. But I think people in the “West” shouldn’t set the bar too high, as “StudiedinChina” and others suggest. If the journal were really open, I’m afraid it would be forced to shut down, and the editors and authors would be punished.Report
I do hope that the people commenting have read the first issue or at least all the abstracts . (Declaration of interest: I am in it – and was not then part of, but am now joining, the advisory board.)Report
Issue 2 now available – and alongside issue 1 gives a clearer sense of the commitments of the journal which should help those who expressed political concerns to feel happier: https://www.euppublishing.com/toc/jspp/1/2Report