Politicized Bureaucracy & Mass Movements: The Origins of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, 1949-1966
A talk by Professor Yang Su (UC Irvine)
Friday, June 04, 2004
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
11377 Bunche Hall
ABSTRACT: I propose a new perspective to explain the origins of the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s. I argue that the mass movement resulted from an unprecedented shortage of bureaucratic positions in the first 17 years of the communist rule. The acute threat of demotion prompted fanatic reactions from the incumbents, who hence ushered one of many mass movements into what we know as the Cultural Revolution: the most extensive, sustained, violent, and transgressive in the history of communist China. Such a development took place in the context where a) Government jobs were the sole source for upward mobility; b) The one-party state staffed its bureaucracy through politics, that is, mass movement represented an occasion for recruitment and, especially, demotion; and c) There was virtually no mobilizing structures unrelated to bureaucrats. This is in contrast to the institutional design of Western democracies that tend to insulate bureaucratic recruitment from electoral and social-movement politics. My discussion is intended to shed light on an important, but neglected, question in contentious politics research: why perpetual state-sponsored mass movements on the one side of the Cold War divide, whereas elections and citizen-organized protests on the other?
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Yang SU is assistant professor of sociology at UC Irvine. He obtained his Ph.D. in sociology from Stanford in 2003. He was a child of the Cultural Revolution and a student at Beijing University during the 1989 Tiananmen Square Movement. He studies both American and Chinese social movements, and has coauthored articles in the American Sociological Review, Mobilization, and China Quarterly.
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Tel: 310 825-8683
Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies