ABSTRACT

The “masses” (qunzhong, 群众) discourse in modern China wasinfluenced by two western intellectual traditions, viz. mass psychology andhistorical materialism. The former regards the masses as a blind, impulsive,and irrational crowd, while the latter believes that only the people areresponsible for the real dynamics of historical development. As a result, themasses discourse in modern China split into a negative condemnation of“mass psychology” and a positive endorsement of “mass campaign,” eachof which was taken as effective tools of political mobilization by differentpolitical parties and social elites. The emergence and spread of the massesdiscourse can be regarded as an important aspect of the construction of the political subject in modern China. The concept of “the masses” was eitherderived from the crystallization of the abstract term “people” (renmin, 人民),or from the actualization of ideal “citizenship” (guomin, 國民). In practice,however, what is embodied in the concepts of the “people,” “citizenship,”and “the masses” in modern China was actually an ambiguous image of thepolitical subject.

KEYWORD

the “masses” discourse, modern China, mass psychology, mass campaign

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