Professor Ackbar Abbas delivered a lecture on “Posthumous Socialism” on 23 October 2017, which was organized by the Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University, Hong Kong. This video was edited and produced by Global University for Sustainability, October 2017.
What is the Socialist Market Economy? Are we dealing with another phase of socialism? Or is China today capitalist in everything else but name alone? Or, even more paradoxically, are we dealing with neither the life nor death of socialism, but with its afterlife? With a posthumous socialism more than a post socialism?
Socialism in its posthumous form can have a vitality stronger than ever before. It is not a case of socialism being more alive than dead in China today, but a case of socialism being more alive when dead: just like a preserved building. A socialist past is not just succeeded and replaced by a capitalist present, but coexists with it, and we are forced to inhabit overlapping time frames.
Hence, anachronisms of a new and peculiar kind are everywhere. Anachronism does not mean being behind the times; rather, it is a sign of the times, a product of the speed of historical change. However, what we will see in the coming period is not just change in any familiar sense, but rather how change itself has changed.
Ackbar Abbas is internationally renowned for his writings on Hong Kong and China. His book, Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance (published in 1997 by University of Minnesota Press) is a path-breaking work in urban studies and cultural theory. His scholarship spans a range of cultural practices, from cinema to architecture to the visual arts. He has been writing on art and visual culture in China, and speaking at important international art events like the Sydney, Venice and Moscow Biennales on Asian art. Before moving to UCI in 2006, he was Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Hong Kong. He is also currently Adjunct Professor, Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University.