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The Cultivation of Citizens: Degeneration, Sexuality, and Nationalist Biopolitics in Zhu Guangqian's on Cultivation



This paper looks at Zhu Guangqian (朱光潛) and the discourse of collective "Life" in the Republican Era (1912-49), focusing specifically on the biopolitical dimensions of the liberal "aesthetic state" (Lee 2006) imagined in Zhu's On Cultivation 《談修養》. In this work Zhu adopts Arthur Schopenhauer's ideas about the racial "will to life" ("species will") and degeneration and combines them with an indigenous emphasis on Confucian ideas of selfcultivation (xiuyang 修養). Zhu, also a follower of the Italian liberal Benedetto Croce, argues that the success of liberal democracy in China depends largely on self-control and studious attention to individual ethical behavior, particularly as regards sexuality. Zhu thus blends early-20th century proto-eugenicist discourse with a liberal emphasis on personal choice and responsi-bility, softening the Chinese nationalist discourse of the "New Life Movement" (xinsheng yundong 新生活運動, 1934) and formulating a theory of responsible popular citizenship which is more in line with Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the People, particularly "Popular Life" (Minsheng 民生). This paper tries to situate On Cultivation within the larger context of changes taking place both without and within the late Republic - i.e., the rise of Kuomintang biopolitics, by focusing mainly on Zhu's Schopenhauerian understanding of sexuality and "racial life." From a Foucauldian standpoint we conclude that Zhu's discourse of "cultivation" is an amalgam of ethical attitudes and mores for citizens that acts partly as a counter-discourse which runs against and parallel to the Kuomintang state's biopolitical ambition of creating disciplined, "docile bodies." That is, although it is possible to see governmentality as a macro-management or "government of souls," it is also possible to understand it as something similar to Zhu's principles of selfcare in On Cultivation - that is, as a matter of concerned personal aesthetics. Finally, although I partly draw on Foucault's late lectures on the hermeneutics of the Western subject and the care of the self (epimeleia, or "self-care"), my goal is to understand how Zhu's emphasis on "species will" (sexual conduct) as a means of race regeneration can be considered in the context of individual, socialized cultivation (xiuyang 修養).

Parallel abstracts


Parallel keywords

朱光潛 國家主義 培養 生命政治 傅柯 管理


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