If Marx had been born in Shanghai

Is Marx's vision still relevant in the twenty-first century world?At bottom, Marx's biggest ideas were "critique," "exploitation," "alienation," "ideology," and "class." He also constructed a fairly specific theory of capitalism and capitalist development -- a theory that has historical pluses and minuses -- and a theory of socialism that can be understood along more democratic …

Rights and violence in China

The role of individual rights and the rule of law in Chinese society are increasingly important topics.  The recent eleven-year prison sentence to dissident intellectual Liu Xiaobo is a particularly stark indication that the Chinese government is set on moving away from a political environment in which opposing points of view can be expressed (link).  Liu was …

Wartime China

Photo: Robert Capa's photograph of The Boy Soldier, Hankou, China, late March 1938 © Cornell Capa / Magnum International Centre of PhotographyChina's experience of World War II (1937-1945) was in some ways as destructive and horrific as that of the Soviet Union. Japan's occupation of many parts of China was extremely brutal, with terrible massacres …

Theories of the Chinese Revolution

Let us consider a question fundamental to twentieth century world history: why did the Chinese Communist Revolution succeed? Was it the result of a few large social forces and structures? Or was this a case of many small causes operating at a local level, aggregating to a world-historical outcome? (See an earlier posting on "small …

China’s agricultural history

Consider the discipline of the agricultural history of China. The following represent a sampling of research problems concerning the social and economic history of rural China in recent research: What were the patterns of population growth, growth of cultivated land, and growth of net output, in traditional China? (Perkins 1973) What was the distribution of …

Marx and the Taipings

It is interesting to observe how Europe's greatest revolutionary, Karl Marx (1818-1883), thought about China's greatest revolution in the nineteenth century, the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864). We might imagine that this relentless advocate for underclass interests might have cheered for the poor peasants of the Taiping Heavenly Army. But this was not the case. Marx wrote …

Historical populations

Historical demography concerns itself with two families of questions -- factual description of population behavior and explanation of the patterns that are observed. On the descriptive side, historical demographers are concerned with estimating the absolute population size of a group or region -- Tuscany in 1400, New England in 1700, the Anasazi in 1000. And …

Labor protest in China

C.K. Lee’s book, Against the Law: Labor Protests in China's Rustbelt and Sunbelt, is a very important contribution to the sociology of contemporary China. The field needs this kind of innovative and theoretically adept work. And one of the great strengths of the research is the fact that it takes the Chinese context seriously in …

G. William Skinner

G. William Skinner, a distinguished China scholar who brought profound innovations to many aspects of the study of Chinese history, passed away on October 25, 2008. See a remembrance of his many contributions to the social scientific study of China at TheChinaBeat.

What is a peasant?

Quite a bit of China's history has been framed in terms of the role of the "peasant" in Chinese society. Historians consider the features of the peasant economy; they examine the occurrence and dynamics of peasant rebellions and peasant mobilization; they ask about peasant culture and consciousness. What is a peasant? Is it a sociologically …

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