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Unending Capitalism
How Consumerism Negated China's Communist Revolution

$24.99 (G)

  • Author: Karl Gerth, University of California, San Diego
  • Date Published: June 2020
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521688468

$ 24.99 (G)

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About the Authors
  • What forces shaped the twentieth-century world? Capitalism and communism are usually seen as engaged in a fight-to-the-death during the Cold War. With the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party aimed to end capitalism. Karl Gerth argues that despite the socialist rhetoric of class warfare and egalitarianism, Communist Party policies actually developed a variety of capitalism and expanded consumerism. This negated the goals of the Communist Revolution across the Mao era (1949–1976) down to the present. Through topics related to state attempts to manage what people began to desire - wristwatches and bicycles, films and fashion, leisure travel and Mao badges - Gerth challenges fundamental assumptions about capitalism, communism, and countries conventionally labeled as socialist. In so doing, his provocative history of China suggests how larger forces related to the desire for mass-produced consumer goods reshaped the twentieth-century world and remade people's lives.

    • Challenges conventional histories of capitalism and consumerism
    • Presents a provocative new interpretation of China - and the world - in the Mao era
    • Provides fresh, engaging material to explain complex concepts and topics
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'A brilliantly researched and analysed account of consumerism during the Mao era. It richly documents the survival of consumer impulses and behaviour amid the puritanical ideology of the early People’s Republic. This is a crucial book for understanding the social, economic and political history of the Mao era, and the tensions and tragedies resulting from the Communist Party’s state capitalism.' Julia Lovell, author of Maoism: A Global History

    'This outstanding book demands that we look again at an entire period, and reassess it from top to bottom. Gerth examines the period of Mao’s China and asks how we would re-read the period if we were to think of it as driven by consumerism, a project that means that if you want to engage in the scholarly discussion around consumerism in China - a huge topic - you have to read and deal with Gerth. To understand why Chinese consumers have behaved as they have, and to understand the continuities between the sharply contrasting historical periods that they have lived through, Karl Gerth’s is now the scholarly standard work - without question.' Rana Mitter, author of China's Good War: How Memory of the World War II Past is Shaping a Nationalist Future

    ‘Karl Gerth liberates the study of Maoist China from the Cold War obfuscations of too much academic output. He moves beyond simplistic notions of the capitalism/socialism binary that has so distorted our understanding of 20th-century China, and brings back the study of political economy to the center of debate in the bargain.’ Oscar Sanchez-Sibony, University of Hong Kong

    ‘Hugely stimulating and deeply researched, this book shows just how important material possessions and desires were in Mao’s China. Essential reading for anyone who is trying to understand how consumption became as powerful as it is.’ Frank Trentmann, author of Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First

    ‘This volume could be useful for course discussions in economics, political science, psychology, and sociology … Highly recommended.’ M. G. Roskin, Choice

    ‘… an engaging and enlightening read. In addition to being an important contribution to our understanding of consumerism, politics, and society in Mao’s China, the book is also a valuable teaching resource, particularly for graduate-level courses on the history of capitalism and twentieth-century China.’ Janson M. Kelly, Pacific Affairs

    ‘… this book is an indispensable addition for those who are interested in the history of world consumerism and that of modern China. The rich source materials and detailed notes are invaluable sources for future research. The book’s emphasis on historical continuity and its exploration of the gap between discourses and practices are also thought-provoking.’ Yikun Zhao, China Information

    ‘a must-read for those who are interested in the Chinese economy, history and cultural studies.’ Yuanbo Qi, Europe-Asia Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2020
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521688468
    • length: 394 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 153 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.59kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: consumerism and capitalism
    1. Self-expanding and compulsory consumerism
    2. Building state capitalism across 1949
    3. Soviet influences on state consumerism
    4. State consumerism in advertising, posters, and films
    5. State consumerism in the service sector
    6. Consumerism in the cultural revolution
    7. The Mao badge phenomenon as consumer fad

  • Author

    Karl Gerth, University of California, San Diego
    Karl Gerth is Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego, where he holds the Hwei-Chih and Julia Hsiu Chair in Chinese Studies. His earlier books are As China Goes, So Goes the World (2010) and China Made: Consumer Culture and the Creation of the Nation (2003).

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