Policing Chinese Politics: A History

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Overview

Beginning with the bloody communist purges of the Jiangxi era of the late 1920s and early 1930s and moving forward to the wild excesses of the Cultural Revolution, Policing Chinese Politics explores the question of revolutionary violence and the political passion that propels it. “Who are our enemies, who are our friends, that is a question germane to the revolution,” wrote Mao Zedong in 1926. Michael Dutton shows just how powerful this one line was to become. It would establish the binary division of life in revolutionary China and lead to both passionate commitment and revolutionary excess. The political history of revolutionary China, he argues, is largely framed by the attempts of Mao and the Party to harness these passions.

The economic reform period that followed Mao Zedong’s rule contained a hint as to how the magic spell of political faith and commitment could be broken, but the cost of such disenchantment was considerable. This detailed, empirical tale of Chinese socialist policing is, therefore, more than simply a police story. It is a parable that offers a cogent analysis of Chinese politics generally while radically redrafting our understanding of what politics is all about. Breaking away from the traditional elite modes of political analysis that focus on personalities, factions, and betrayals, and from “rational” accounts of politics and government, Dutton provides a highly original understanding of the far-reaching consequences of acts of faith and commitment in the realm of politics.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Eric Hobsbawm, with some irony and much love for the history profession, once remarked that ‘theoreticians of all kinds circle around the peaceful herds of historians as they graze on their rich pastures of primary sources.’ He endorsed the encircling of those pastures. Michael Dutton is one of those social science theoreticians who graze on the same rich fields, but at the same time he takes Asian studies and history into new and fascinating areas.”—Børge Bakken, author of The Exemplary Society: Human Improvement, Social Control, and the Dangers of Modernity in China

“Michael Dutton’s Policing Chinese Politics is a work of deeply committed political scholarship. It will be of great interest to scholars of Chinese politics and to historians and critics of the socialist movement.”—Piers Beirne, Department of Criminology, University of Southern Maine

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Michael Dutton is a reader in political science at the University of Melbourne. He also has an appointment as a professor of politics at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He is the author of Policing and Punishment in China: From Patriarchy to “The People” and The Crisis of Marxism in China and the editor of Streetlife China.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : a theoretical explanation 1
1 Friends and enemies : the war within 23
2 From class to nation : limiting the excess in Yan'an 71
3 The government of struggle : institutions of the binary 133
4 The years that burned 197
5 The end of the (mass) line? : Chinese policing in the era of the contract 247
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