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7 The Flight to Rights: 1990s China and Beyond

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Chapter Summary

This chapter presents a tentative discussion of flight to rights in China, a flight that bespeaks the desired atomization of the potential totality of social life into a legalistic framework. Indeed, a major turn in China's developing social order in the 1990s and beyond has been the rise of a pervasive call for what is termed social normalization (even as social order has become more disorderly through the state-led primitive accumulation of capital and the consequent anarchic class stratification). It takes culture as a praxis and social life as a totality, yet if cultural values are socially and politically delimited to an ideal of state-defined legality ("the rule of/by law"), the limits imposed on the imagination of futurity from the position of the present are vastly impoverished. The chapter wants to state unequivocably that legality is inadequate to an imaginative rethinking of the relation between culture, social life, and politics.

Keywords: China; Culturalism; liberalism; politics; social life; state-defined legality



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