Modernity in the Light of Historical Materialism

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.2, 2016


Modernity in the Light of Historical Materialism



Sun Litian, Han Qingxiang and Qiao Ruijin


With China’s rise, the academic interpretation of modernity has unavoidably become entwined with the Chinese road. This reflects both the march of time and the progress of philosophy. For China, which is still a developing country, the construction of modernity must overcome cultural obstacles; we must set up historical and value yardsticks to rediscover our nation. In today’s diverse world, this means that we must establish a method premised on transcending determinism and dependence so as to realize autonomy and subjectivity in the exploration of China’s modernization, and must also seek a broader space for thinking and development. This is precisely what we have been discussing in terms of the Chinese connotations of the issue of modernity or the theoretical motive force of Chinese modernity. The introduction and presence of Marxist philosophy provides an intellectual foundation and value guidance for concept generation and system construction for the concept of Chinese modernity. Based on the above thinking, Social Sciences in China Press held an academic symposium on “Modernity in the light of historical materialism.” We have selected three representative papers to encourage further research on this topic. Professor Sun Litian, from the Center for Fundamentals of Philosophy, Jilin University, puts forward the proposition that the theoretical framework and intellectual approach of diagnosis, critique, and transcendence of modernity are covered in the Marxist theoretical tradition. The transcendence of modernity included in the experience of modernity should not only absorb the rational spirit of Greece and the outstanding achievements of Western theories on modernity that represent the overall progress of human civilization, but should also advance and enrich the moral spirit embodied in China’s fine traditional culture. Professor Han Qingxiang, of the Department of Teaching and Research in Philosophy, CPC Central Party School, puts forward the idea that “modernity” was raised by Western scholars to rethink modes of thought, existence, communication and production at a given stage of historical development (modern society) in their totality. In order to deepen research on modernity, especially Chinese modernity, we should use the analytical framework of “social structures in transition” to reveal its origins, nature, contradictions and manifestations in time and space. Professor Qiao Ruijin, Marxist Philosophy Institute, Shanxi University, stresses that crusading against and abjuration of modernity and the global modernity movement constitute the basic situation in today’s world, but this is in fact a misunderstanding of modernity. In the new historical period, we need to rethink the basic spirit of modernity. Only by placing modern society in given social forms and systems can we build a modern socialist country with Chinese characteristics that transcends Western modernity.