Monday, October 25, 2010

Nepotism in the harmonious state of China

In the current LRB Slavoj Zizek writes about the state of China in a review of The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers by Richard McGregor
Allen Lane, 302 pp, £25.00, June 2010, ISBN 978 1 84614 173 7.

It seems that the Chinese Communist Party is like a provincial branch of the Freemasons (aka "the mafia of the mediocre") in giving jobs to family and friends of members and contacts.
The irony is that the Party itself, its complex workings hidden from public scrutiny, is the ultimate source of corruption. The inner circle, comprising top Party and state functionaries as well as chiefs of industry, communicate via an exclusive phone network, the ‘Red Machine’ – possessing one of its unlisted numbers is a clear sign of one’s status. A vice-minister tells McGregor that ‘more than half of the calls he received on his “red machine” were requests for favours from senior Party officials, along the lines of: “Can you give my son, daughter, niece, nephew, cousin or good friend and so on, a job?”’
Zizek ends by raising the fragile state of China's much proclaimed "harmony"
Every year, thousands of rebellions by workers, farmers and minorities have to be put down by the police and the army. No wonder official propaganda insists obsessively on the notion of the harmonious society: this very excess bears witness to the opposite, to the threat of chaos and disorder. One should bear in mind the basic rule of Stalinist hermeneutics: since the official media do not openly report trouble, the most reliable way to detect it is to look out for compensatory excesses in state propaganda: the more ‘harmony’ is celebrated, the more chaos and antagonism there is in reality. China is barely under control. It threatens to explode.
Like Littlejohn, Clarkson and Bushell on homosexuality, the Chinese State protests too much.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Things and First Principles

Tidying up I found a copy of the Guardian's obit of Tony Judt. I liked this story:
Mixing with the elite at the École Normale began another process of disenchantment, when he observed at firsthand that "cardinal axiom of French intellectual life", as he drily called it, "a radical disjunction between the uninteresting evidence of your own eyes and ears and the incontrovertible conclusions to be derived from first principles".
Deriving facts from first prnciples should, largely, be left to pure mathematics.