Re: Mao & praxis Re: [xmca] Geertz and praxis for us too

From: Jianwei Zhang (
Date: Wed Nov 08 2006 - 06:18:29 PST

It's interesting to read your messages about Mao. You're right that
Chinese have no definite article. Whether it is "definite" or not all
depends on the context (or readers' reading of the context). As I
understand the context, when Mao talked about where correct ideas come
from, he meant correct ideas of all kinds in the world. He used the
word "correct" because according to him and his understanding of
Marxism, practice is the ultimate criterion for testing the "truth".
Although ironically, his own practice in his later life revealed an
alternative perspective of this criterion: How well an idea survives or
succeeds the test of practice is subject to subjective interpretations,
which are often driven by human beliefs, desires, plots, and the like.


Jianwei Zhang
Institute for Knowledge Innovation and Technology
OISE/University of Toronto

On 7-Nov-06, at 1:10 PM, Tony Whitson wrote:

> I agree that it's unambiguous that what Mao wrote is "correct ideas,"
> rather than "the correct ideas."
> ^^^
> In fairness to the Swedisth translator, though, it should be noted
> that Chinese does not use a definite article like "the" (or
> le/la/les); so it's not as if he added the word where the original
> would have had one if it was supposed to be there.)
> On Tue, 7 Nov 2006, Leif Strandberg wrote:
>> Hi,
>> I checked my Little Red Book (from 1968) and saw that Mao wrote about
>> three (3) kinds av social practice:
>> the stuggle for production
>> the class struggle
>> and
>> scientific experiments
>> (p 206)
>> Just a note from Sweden - where we had a conflicted conversation
>> about just that quote - as the Swedish translator wrote;
>> Where do the (sic) correct ideas come from....
>> But Mao wrote "correct ideas".
>> It was interesting to look in the old book again - esp after reading
>> Jung Chang's and Jon Halliday's book Mao The unknown story.
>> Leif
>> Sweden
>> 2006-11-05 kl. 16.51 skrev Tony Whitson:
>>> Actually, Mao was attempting to render Marxist theory in a way that
>>> would be accessible. His essay "On Practice" ["Shijian Luen" - could
>>> be translated "On Praxis"]. The English is at
>>> -1/ mswv1_16.htm
>>> & that site would have it in many other languages as well.
>>> This is one of the essays that everybody in China studied during the
>>> Cultural Revolution. I bet many knew it almost by heart. When Mao
>>> wrote for the masses, he was very deliberate about limiting the
>>> vocabulary so that everyone could read it (which was a good thing
>>> for second-year students of Chinese in places like the US!); but he
>>> doesn't shy away from presenting concepts like "social praxis" in a
>>> theoretically rich way.
>>> As I recall the standard English version of the slogan (which I
>>> don't see now, and which might actually be not from this text
>>> itself):
>>> "Where do correct ideas come from? From social practice, and from
>>> nowhere else."
>>> This was pretty straightforward Marxism, against Hegelian or other
>>> idealisms.
>>> On Sun, 5 Nov 2006, Jay Lemke wrote:
>>> ...
>>>> Praxis, as I understand it, is not activism. It is the near-fusion
>>>> of practice and theoretical understanding, with the latter informed
>>>> by participation in practice, and informing an always-learning and
>>>> ever-changing practice. I was, of course, quoting Mao a bit
>>>> provocatively in regard to correct ideas coming from the people,
>>>> and assumed it was clear what people he was referring to. He was
>>>> speaking, in context, of course, to cadres working with the masses,
>>>> and he was talking about praxis without using the formal
>>>> vocabulary.
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> xmca mailing list
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
> Tony Whitson
> UD School of Education
> NEWARK DE 19716
> _______________________________
> "those who fail to reread
> are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
> -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
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