28 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2010 Last revised: 8 Jun 2010
Date Written: March 31, 2010
Even before the global economic crisis, philosophers Slavoj Zizek and Alain Badiou proposed a need for conceptualizing communism within today's circumstances. For both thinkers, Mao Zedong is of central importance. According to Zizek's recent work In Defense of Lost Causes, the Maoist Cultural Revolution was not radical enough because Mao did not allow his own monopoly of state power to be challenged, while cynically calling for an upheaval of Chinese society. For Alain Badiou, this failed experiment in radical politics signals the death of the emancipatory potential of the Leninist Party-State, and a need to re-imagine communism with a new vocabulary and set of practices that occurs at a distance from the State. My paper will argue that any project for radical political change will inevitably fail as long as its authority is invested with a theological status. The sainthood of revolutionary leaders and untouchable status of their ideology signals a retreat from the complexity and messiness of the political and a return to religion as a form of social control. Using Maoism in China as my particular case, I claim that popular perceptions of Mao closely resemble Christian saint worship and, thus, are emptied of political meaning. A popular saying in China is: 'If Mao is in your heart, all things in all cases will be successful.' Such a sentence might keep Mao the divinity alive and preserve his body in Tiananmen, but buries any trace of politics.
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