Professing Hegemony: Consensus Building in the Chinese Higher Education Sector

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Michael GOW , NYU Shanghai, Shanghai, China
This paper proposes that the economic, political and social transformation of the People’s Republic of China in the post-reform era is an example of ‘passive revolution’ aimed at pre-empting a revolution from below following the disastrous Cultural Revolution.  Building upon deeply-held structural hegemonic beliefs, the leading Communist Party has, especially in the aftermath of Tiananmen, sought to build consensus to a teleological project: the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. 

Moreover, that overarching vision for the rejuvenation of China has proved to be durable and robust, changing at pace with the shifting needs of China in a time of dramatic transformation.  It has grown to envelop ideas rooted in China’s ancient philosophical traditions as well as more recent historical experience and new concepts designed to characterize the post-reform era. 

Utilizing a theoretical framework  elaborated from Gramsci’s theory of hegemony and Bourdieu’s concepts of field, capital and habitus, this paper examines the materialization of national, agential hegemonic projects and the subsequent negotiation of consensus.  Focusing on the reform of China’s Higher Education sector, the research discerns a process by which the ruling party skillfully articulates its own interests with agents operating in and across different fields of activity.  Through the strategic deployment of resources, and the resulting competition over those resources the unintended consequence of which is to propel the Chinese HE sector along a trajectory deemed desirable by the CCP and PRC government, a limited form of hegemony characterized as much by the negation of dissent as by the negotiation of consensus has emerged. 

In doing so, this paper views contemporary China as one characterized as much by consensus as coercion; identifies the overarching vision to which consensus is sought, and defines those actors with whom consensus is sought and also the process through which such consensus can be negotiated.