Chinese Socialism in/as Theory: Political Economy in Revolutionary China

Collaborative Group

Dr. Rebecca E. Karl




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.