Names and Reality in Mao Zedong’s Political Discourse on Intellectuals
AbstractThis essay addresses the topic of the political use of formalized language. In the Chinese historical tradition the ‘correctness’ of language has always been considered a source of moral authority, official legitimacy and political stability. Political language has always had an intrinsic instrumental value, since its control is the most suitable way to express and convey the orthodox State ideology. Formalized language has also served as a device to standardize the range of expressiveness of Chinese intellectuals. Wittgenstein argues that words have the power to set the limit for the ‘expression of thoughts’, because the boundaries of language indicate the boundaries of one’s own world. My focus is on specific forms of power embodied in language practices and discursive formations recognizable in selected texts. This inquiry illuminates various possibilities for normalization and inculcation of formalized language. The internal constitution of selected texts is examined with an eye to the dialogic interaction with the production and reception of Mao’s and post-Mao’s political discourses on intellectuals. Analysis of language formation and use in a comparative perspective considers the socio-historical contexts and reveals a pattern of evolution, involution, and finally devolution of language.