Unending Capitalism: State Consumerism and the Negation of the Chinese Socialist Revolution


ACLS Fellowship Program



Named Award

ACLS Frederic E. Wakeman, Jr. Fellow named award


“Unending Capitalism” reinterprets the first three decades of the People’s Republic of China, also known as the Mao era, from 1949-1976. The era has been seen as explicitly anticapitalist, hyperegalitarian, and anticonsumerist. By contrast, this project focuses on state attempts to manage consumerism and argues that many of the policies of the period—including the most “antibourgeois” ones of the Cultural Revolution—had unintended effects. Using a wide variety of Chinese sources, from handwritten archives and internally-circulated state documents to personal memoirs and internet blogs, “Unending Capitalism” demonstrates how policies often worked against the stated socialist goals and instead recreated and expanded capitalist practices and bourgeois consumerism, thereby negating the socialist revolution.