This provocative book explores the ideology of truth and deception in China, offering a nuanced perspective on social interaction in different cultural settings. Drawing on decades of fieldwork in China, Susan D. Blum examines rules, expectations, and beliefs regarding lying and honesty. She argues that public lying is evaluated within Chinese society by culturally specific moral values. Chinese, for example, might emphasize the consequences of speech, Americans the absolute truthfulness. But many Americans also excel in manipulation of language, yet find a simultaneous moral absolutism opposed to lying in any form. Blum considers Japanese and Jewish traditions as well, which similarly struggle to control the boundaries of honesty.
Susan D. Blum is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame.
Part I: Deception and Truth Chapter 1: Truth, Lying, and Deception: Blum's Maxims for China Part II: China Present Chapter 2: Tricks and Traps: Deception and Protective Cleverness Chapter 3: For Their Own Good: Benevolent Deception and Flattery Chapter 4: State Secrets and Fakes: The True, the Real, the Transparent, and the Squelched Chapter 5: Longing for Honesty Part III: China Past Chapter 6: Crooked and Straight: Right Action and Strategy in Premodern China Chapter 7: A Social Theory of Truth: Language in Revolutionary China Part IV: Humanity and Language Chapter 8: Truth and Deception across Time and Space Chapter 9: Knowing How to Play with Words and Minds Appendix: Theoretical Foundations and Implications