The Cultural Revolution at the Margins: Chinese Socialism in Crisis

The Cultural Revolution at the Margins: Chinese Socialism in Crisis

by Yiching Wu

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Mao Zedong envisioned a great struggle to "wreak havoc under the heaven" when he launched the Cultural Revolution in 1966. But as radicalized Chinese youth rose up against Party officials, events quickly slipped from the government's grasp, and rebellion took on a life of its own. Turmoil became a reality in a way the Great Leader had not foreseen. The Cultural Revolution at the Margins recaptures these formative moments from the perspective of the disenfranchised and disobedient rebels Mao unleashed and later betrayed.

The Cultural Revolution began as a "revolution from above," and Mao had only a tenuous relationship with the Red Guard students and workers who responded to his call. Yet it was these young rebels at the grassroots who advanced the Cultural Revolution's more radical possibilities, Yiching Wu argues, and who not only acted for themselves but also transgressed Maoism by critically reflecting on broader issues concerning Chinese socialism. As China's state machinery broke down and the institutional foundations of the PRC were threatened, Mao resolved to suppress the crisis. Leaving out in the cold the very activists who had taken its transformative promise seriously, the Cultural Revolution devoured its children and exhausted its political energy.

The mass demobilizations of 1968-69, Wu shows, were the starting point of a series of crisis-coping maneuvers to contain and neutralize dissent, producing immense changes in Chinese society a decade later.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674728790
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 06/09/2014
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Yiching Wu teaches East Asian studies, history, and anthropology at the University of Toronto.

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables xi

List of Abbreviations xiii

Preface and Acknowledgments xv

1 The Unthinkable Revolution 1

From the Margins: A Historiographical and Interpretive Detour 8

Plan of This Book 13

2 Enemies from the Past: Bureaucracy, Class, ami Mao's Continuous Revolution 17

When Revolutionaries Became Rulers 21

Socialist Bureaucracy and Ruling-Class Formation 34

Class as Classification 38

How the Old Bottle Spoiled New Wine 46

3 From the Good Blood to the Right To Rebel: Politics of Class and Citizenship in the Beijing Red Guard Movement 53

Proletarian Purity 56

Festivals of Red Violence 64

Birth of a Big Poisonous Weed 67

Rights and Class: Transgressing Maoism 82

4 Revolutionary Alchemy: Economism and the Making of Shanghai's January Revolution 95

A Brief History of Economism 97

Crisis and Indeterminacy 108

Revolutionary Alchemy: "What Kind of Stuff Is Economism?" 120

The Making of a New Political Model 124

An Unstable Closure 131

In the Name of Proletarian Power 138

5 Revolution is Dead, Long Live the Revolution: Popular Radicalization of the Cultural Revolution in Hunan 142

The Great Retreat and Its Discontents 145

Resisting Demobilization: The Road to the Shengwulian 148

Coalition of the Disaffected? 159

"The People's Commune of China" 170

The Universality of the Singular 184

6 Coping with Crisis in the Wake of the Cultural Revolution: The Historical Origins of Chinese Postsocialism 190

Rebellion and Encompassment 190

Return to Normalcy 196

Continuing Crises 203

The Road to Brumaire: The Hegemonic Politics of Economic Reform 217

Epilogue. From Revolution to Reform: Rethinking the Cultural Revolution in the Present 223

Two Contrasting Chinas? 225

Ruling-Class Transformation: Overcoming the 1978 Divide 227

The Incomplete Continuous Revolution 235

Appendix: List of Selected Chinese Characters 241

Notes 245

Bibliography 305

Index 329

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