East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

May 1 Workshop


“Revolution from Within: China’s Bureaucratic Insurgency, 1966-1971”

Presenter: Andrew Walder
Denise O’Leary and Kent Thiry Professor of Sociology
Stanford University

4:00-5:30pm, Tuesday
May 1, 2012
Pick Lounge, 5828 South University Ave.

Abstract: In 1967, after a few short months of protest, one of the world’s most cohesive and formidably organized civilian dictatorships collapsed. In the first year of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, insurgent students and workers attacked local party-state organs, leading quickly to the collapse of the civilian state and a prolonged and violent effort to implement military rule. This outcome has long been understood as a mass insurgency that fits closely with standard resource mobilization and political opportunity analyses of contentious politics. In this view, the immobilization of the party’s organs of repression, and the encouragement of rebellion by China’s supreme leader, fostered a remarkably successful mass mobilization against the state by aggrieved social groups. Detailed narrative accounts of “power seizures” in cities and counties, however, combined with systematic data on political events across more than 2,100 local jurisdictions, suggests a different explanation. Instead, the rapid collapse of China’s civilian power structure was due to an insurgency within party-state organs, as officials and staff scrambled to distance themselves from top officials at each level by initiating “rebellions” of their own. Instead of a bottom-up insurgency by aggrieved elements of “society” against “the state”, the rapidity and depth of the insurgency is the product of a cascading “inside-out” rebellions by China’s own elites, motivated not by grievances against the status quo but by strategies to avoid becoming implicated in a rapidly escalating and unpredictable party purge. This suggests a new variety of “state-centered” analysis. Instead of offering summary external judgments about the cohesiveness of the state and its impact on political opportunity for aggrieved groups, the internal characteristics of state structures and the motives and actions of individuals within them are brought directly into the analysis.

Andrew Walder is the Denise O’Leary and Kent Thiry Professor in the Department of Sociology at Stanford. He is currently the Director of the Division of International, Comparative and Area Studies in Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences, and the Chair of Stanford’s Department of Sociology. His recent related publications include Fractured Rebellion: The Beijing Red Guard Movement (Harvard University Press, 2009), and “Ambiguity and Choice in Political Movements: The Origins of Beijing Red Guard Factionalism,” in the American Journal of Sociology (2006).

Workshop website: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/eastasia/
Student coordinator: Yang Zhang (yangzhang@uchicago.edu)
Faculty sponsors: Dali Yang and Dingxin Zhao

This presentation is sponsored by the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences and Center for East Asian Studies. Persons with disabilities who believe they may need assistance, please contact the student coordinator in advance.

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