Harlan David Chambers
- Doctoral Candidate
- Columbia University
In Search of the Commune: China’s Cultural Experiments for a New Society (1947 to 1962)
This study examines the diverse cultural innovators of China’s early socialist period who committed themselves, both body and pen, to the realization of the commune as a new social unit premised on principles of collective ownership and equal social relations. As a comparative study, it will analyze a range of regional cases, including literature about Hebei’s land reforms of the late 1940s, reportage literature from agrarian cooperatives in the mid 1950s, and mass theater creations of both agrarian and urban communes in Henan during the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962). By juxtaposing these cultural works against an analysis of historical records, I will interrogate how thinkers engaged culture as a means to reflect upon, critique, and even intervene in social transformations underway.
Chinese Socialism in/as Theory: Political Economy in Revolutionary China
China’s socialist revolution produced an array of strategies to transform social relations through the very formations borne of revolutionary experience. The concrete conditions of revolution also gave rise to theoretical writings on conceptual problems arising from the transition to socialism. From the 1930s through the late 1970s, intellectuals sought to rethink classical Marxist categories and models of socialist development, including those drawn from the Soviet Union, in light of China’s distinct historical circumstances. Such interventions include the 1930s “social history” debates, the 1950s battles over the role of the Law of Value in socialism, and the problem of “bourgeois right” and the adequacy of the wage-form. Demonstrating the crucial role of political economic theory in the Chinese revolution, these broad theoretical engagements also resonate with contemporary projects on how to understand and transform social relations arising from histories of uneven development.