2022 Abstracts Stage 3

China’s ‘Social Credit’ System: Power, Freedom and Individuality.

Archie Fowler, 2022, Stage 3

This paper argues that China’s social credit system (CSCS) has serious philosophical consequences for Chinese citizens on the principles of power, freedom and individuality. The CSCS is a system by which individuals’ actions are monitored and consequently rewarded or punished against what the Chinese state deems to be either “trustworthy” or “untrustworthy” actions. Through the medium of the CSCS, the state has the power to dictate the truth about the rightness or wrongness of action. This paper holds that Foucault’s conception of power and, specifically, his notion that power and knowledge are intertwined, is paramount to understanding the relationship that the state and society share in China. To be precise, this relationship is one in which the state, through its power, controls and manages truth (about action). This paper does however argue that Foucault’s notion that power operates vertically (from top-down and bottom-up) is not representative of the political framework of China. As regards the principles of freedom and individuality, J. S. Mill’s philosophy on liberty and freedom is considered in context with the CSCS. This paper shows that under the CSCS, there can be no possibility, or at least a greatly limited possibility, for any individual freedom and, by extension, individuality. Mill argues that individual freedom is essential for well-functioning liberal states, and as such his arguments are central to the philosophical enquiry into the CSCS.

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