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Policies of Chaos

Policies of Chaos: The Organizational Causes of Violence in China's Cultural Revolution

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 381
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  • Book Info
    Policies of Chaos
    Book Description:

    The tumult of the Cultural Revolution after 1966 is often blamed on a few leaders in Beijing, or on long-term egalitarian ideals, or on communist or Chinese political cultures. Lynn White shows, however, that the chaos resulted mainly from reactions by masses of individuals and small groups to three specific policies of administrative manipulation: labeling groups, designating bosses, and legitimating violence in political campaigns. These habits of local organization were common after 1949 and gave the state success in short-term revolutionary aims, despite scarce resources and staff--but they also drove millions to attack each other later.

    First, measures accumulated before 1966 to give people bad or good names (such as "rightist" or "worker"); these set a family's access to employment, education, residence, and rations--so they gave interests to potential conflict groups. Second, policies for bossism went far beyond Confucian patronage patterns, making work units tightly dependent on Party monitors--so rational individuals either pandered to local bosses or (when they could) deposed them. Third, the institutionalized violence of political campaigns both mobilized activists and scared others into compliance. These organizational measures were often effective in the short run before 1966 but accumulated social costs that China paid later. The book ends with comparisons to past cases of mass urban ostracism in other countries, and it suggests how such tragedies may be forecast or prevented in the future.

    Originally published in 1991.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6057-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Romanizations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. CHAPTER 1 What the Cultural Revolution Was, and Why It Happened
    (pp. 3-49)

    Why did the Cultural Revolution occur? What made urban Chinese attack each other in the streets? How could a polity whose precepts of organization came from either Lenin or Confucius fall apart so completely? Why in 1966 did so many Chinese—as most of them now think—go politically berserk? This remains a question on China’s agenda, even though there are reasons for many Chinese to forget about it. Such a searing experience shapes attitudes toward the future.

    Because this mass movement wounded many patriotic Chinese deeply, they ask how it happened, who or what gave rise to it, whom...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Workers and Managers: New Democracy vs. Socialism, 1949–1956
    (pp. 50-86)

    The stage must be set to depict the context in which ccp administrative policies accumulated to create a Cultural Revolution. The drama opens in a place where labeled groups of people were already important, where labor-management relations were highly clientelist, and where civil violence was widespread. To change these patterns, the revolutionary government mandated new constituencies, fostered new local leaderships, and threatened the previous threateners. This process brought basic change. But when continued later, it restored the old patterns, even though the actors were new. A more sensitive, admittedly difficult, policy would have been first to use these techniques to...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Students and Residents: Policing vs. Patriotism, 1949–1956
    (pp. 87-103)

    Values nurtured by families, neighborhoods, schools, and religions affect the ways people act, as surely as economic and material factors do. Residents and intellectuals were important, along with workers and managers, in creating conditions for the chaos of 1966–68. Such groups overlap each other, of course. Administrators and employees are all residents too. The leaders of local urban groups are often intellectuals in the sense that they have some education, and many of them have cadre or managerial posts. But a particular analysis of the roles of residents and students can throw new light on the origins of the...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Workers and Managers: The Transition to Socialism, 1956–1957
    (pp. 104-129)

    The most important watershed in Chinese political history between 1949 and 1966 was certainly 1957. The Cultural Revolution would have been a different phenomenon without the public reaction to policies that were normalized then. Labeling was intensified by calls, late that year, to “take class struggle as the key link.” Monitoring was stressed in slogans to “strengthen the leadership of the Party.” The Antirightist Campaign was the most extensive effort (before 1966) by new local leaders to discredit the intellectuals and managers who had seemed essential to the job of running China.

    Persecuting “rightists” ended any ambiguity that the Party...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Students and Residents: Flowers, Coercion, and Minds, 1956–1957
    (pp. 130-147)

    The experiences of 1956–57 were felt not just in Shanghai’s economy, but also in the city’s residential and intellectual culture. This was a period of quickly growing immigration to Shanghai. The annual rate of increase in permanent residents, from 1950 through 1957, had averaged less than 4 percent,¹ but the annualized increase from June 1956 to October 1957 was an extraordinary 13 percent.² Legal residence changes accounted for more than seven-tenths of this rise, and transients created another quarter of it.³ The Transition to Socialism revamped Shanghai’s labor market, and the Party’s new cadres brought in many of their...

  11. CHAPTER 6 The Great Leap Forward and Salvation by Work, 1958–1962
    (pp. 148-162)

    The Great Leap was no political relaxation; but after the traumas of 1957, it was at least a change. People who survived the previous campaigns with their reputations intact could now prove themselves, by exhausting themselves. On this basis, they could hope for respectability in the newly socialist Shanghai. The Leap was billed as a struggle against nature, against the obstacles that kept China economically backward.¹ It was a social struggle, too, but of a new and sublimated sort. This huge campaign reflected a continuing conflict between labeled groups, as well as between individuals in new hierarchies. It was an...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Exhaustion in the Leap among Residents and Intellectuals, 1958–1962
    (pp. 163-179)

    The most similar 1950s analogue and precedent to the Cultural Revolution was the Antirightist Campaign, not the Great Leap Forward. The relative social resources of local Party elites, compared with those of non-Party notables, were still limited throughout the 1950s. At first, the official optimism of 1958 stirred some hope among families like those stigmatized the previous year that their censure might be diminished. Hard work, rather than class struggle, was the state’s main theme by 1958. Urban residents of many kinds could win back their sense of decency, if allowed to earn it fairly. The Leap was of course...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Tightening Control over the Economy, 1962–1966
    (pp. 180-199)

    During the prelude to the Cultural Revolution, the state ruled the society in China more thoroughly than during any other equivalent length of time. Economic depression after the Leap built socialist institutions more surely than purposeful campaigns had done, because it shut down nonstate enterprises. Underground and semiofficial factories could glean few raw materials in the early 1960s, and they sold to stricken markets. So most unofficial companies went out of business or had to merge with government-controlled firms.¹ Job seekers became more dependent than ever before on official hiring. The depression by 1961 consummated what the laws of 1956...

  14. CHAPTER 9 A Standardized System for Urban Statuses, 1962–1966
    (pp. 200-220)

    Famine after the Leap left China’s Communists with big doubts about the strength of their political constituency. In 1962, for example, basic-level elections should have been held, according to the state Constitution; but in a time of such severe general shortages, they were omitted.¹ The Party was less sure of its popular base during the depression than ever before. The recovery between 1962 and 1966, however, was a time when Party leaders could again tighten guidance over students and residents.

    These attempts were made possible by a slowly increasing loyal staff at the Party’s disposal. More fear of control created...

  15. CHAPTER 10 Maoists Try to Remake Management, 1966–1968
    (pp. 221-269)

    The aim of this book is not to give a general report on Shanghai’s Cultural Revolution, but only to show how its violence and ostracism began. For this purpose, it is enough to follow events through the period of greatest chaos in 1966–68. The task of these chapters on the time of tumult is more complex than that of earlier sections. They must show how social reactions to labels, monitors, and campaigns caused the brutality, but they must also show how other precipitating factors (related to Mao’s initiatives and divisions in national and municipal elites) broke the dam to...

  16. CHAPTER 11 Conflict among Local Symbol Makers, 1966–1968
    (pp. 270-305)

    The Cultural Revolution seems oddly named. Culture, ideals, and enthusiasm had less to do with the event than many accounts suggest. The Cultural Revolution nonetheless was cultural in the sense that life-styles were at stake, and it encompassed spectacular symbols. The previous chapter gives its history; so the main means of presentation here can shift to types of activities. Because the cr’s striking images have so deeply affected past analyses of events then, these visions should be related to the argument of this book. The way to accomplish that, following the method used earlier, is to study the structure of...

  17. CHAPTER 12 Conclusion: Causes and Lessons of the Tragedy
    (pp. 306-338)

    For each participant, the Cultural Revolution meant something different. For many, it was an attempt to realize political ideals: socialism, equality, a responsive modern state, or rule by the people. For Party leaders, it was largely a struggle for personal power. For most youths, it was a period of traveling and politicking. Many managed to sit on the sidelines, taking cover until the storm cleared. The perceived meaning of this event could change at different times like a kaleidoscope, even for a single person.¹ Yet an overarching significance of the Cultural Revolution for most people, no matter what else it...

  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 339-352)
  19. Index
    (pp. 353-367)