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The Cultural Revolution: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
 
 

The Cultural Revolution: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Kindle Edition]

Richard Curt Kraus
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Review


"This remarkably full and efficient account provides a basic narrative of the Cultural Revolution, and then discusses in greater depth its politics, culture, economics, foreign relations, and memory. The book profits from Kraus's particular expertise on culture and the arts, and does not shy from controversial claims that are likely to provoke lively discussions." -Joseph Esherick, Hwei-chih and Julia Hsiu Chair in Chinese Studies, University of California, San Diego


"It's just 152 pages, small enough to slip in your back pocket, and written by a political scientist who knows the complex event in question through and through, and does a nice job of, among other things, dealing with the strange shadows it continues to cast on contemporary Chinese politics." -- Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Chancellor's Professor and Department of History Chair, University of California at Irvine


Product Description

China's decade-long Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution shook the politics of China and the world. Even as we approach its fiftieth anniversary, the movement remains so contentious that the Chinese Communist Party still forbids fully open investigation of its origins, development, and conclusion. Drawing upon a vital trove of scholarship, memoirs, and popular culture, this Very Short Introduction illuminates this complex, often obscure, and still controversial movement. Moving beyond the figure of Mao Zedong, Richard Curt Kraus links Beijing's elite politics to broader aspects of society and culture, highlighting many changes in daily life, employment, and the economy. Kraus also situates this very nationalist outburst of Chinese radicalism within a global context, showing that the Cultural Revolution was mirrored in the radical youth movement that swept much of the world, and that had imagined or emotional links to China's red guards. Yet it was also during the Cultural Revolution that China and the United States tempered their long hostility, one of the innovations in this period that sowed the seeds for China's subsequent decades of spectacular economic growth.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 481 KB
  • Print Length: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (20 Dec 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0063D7OMU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #184,694 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Chinese Cultural Revolution is probably the most comprehensive and wide-reaching attempt at total social engineering in history. It was an attempt by the Chinese communist authorities to essentially uproot the three millennia of the national history and culture, and rebuild the whole society "from scratch." Needless to say, a program of such outsized scope and ambition required a lot force and violence in its implementation. The violence was physical, psychological, and, as the name suggests, cultural. It has left deep scars on the Chines society and the ramifications that are still felt. Since its end, a lot has been written about the Cultural Revolution, but until relatively recently scholars haven't had that much of an access to the official Chinese state documents and had to rely primarily on the outside and secondary sources.

"The Cultural Revolution: A Very Short Introduction" takes the advantage of all of the best recent scholarship on the subject, and presents a very interesting and insightful book on this subject. Richard Curt Klaus has written a very accessible and readable introduction to the Cultural Revolution, covering the years 1966-1976, as well as the decades that preceded them and the aftermath in the ensuing years.

One of this book's greatest strengths is its presentation of the forces that drove the Cultural Revolution in terms of power struggles in the top echelons of Chinese politics. This approach sheds a lot of light on otherwise opaque or seemingly irrational actions by Mao and the people around him. Far from being an absolute unassailable dictator, Mao was feeling very vulnerable in the 1960s, both from internal opposition as well as from the outside forces.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and Insightful! 31 Dec 2012
By kclam
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book presents a concise introduction and analysis of China's decade long (1966-1976) Cultural Revolution from the political, cultural, economical and diplomatic perspectives. It is informative, insightful and accessible to the general readers.

The Cultural Revolution released people's bitterness accumulated since PRC's establishment in year 1949. It was essentially political, centering on Mao's personal power and revolutionary ideals. The main losers were the intellectuals and the number of deaths were staggering. In particular, higher education had been interrupted during the period. Officially, PRC blamed the chaotic Cultural Revolution on Maoist extremists and the 'Gang of Four' in particular.

The arts reforms reinforced a sense of shared national participation which was actually one form of political control. The economy during the Cultural Revolution was not a disaster; the disorders in the first two years shrank the economy but there were moderate increases in GDP afterwards.

Mao tilted towards the United States in order to oppose Soviet Union. The opening to foreign trade and investment produced rapid growth in incomes. It was argued that investment in infrastructure and human capital during the Cultural Revolution had contributed to China's subsequent economic opening to the outside world.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Probing and Insightful Look at one of the Biggest Cultural Disasters in History 9 April 2012
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Chinese Cultural Revolution is probably the most comprehensive and wide-reaching attempt at total social engineering in history. It was an attempt by the Chinese communist authorities to essentially uproot the three millennia of the national history and culture, and rebuild the whole society "from scratch." Needless to say, a program of such outsized scope and ambition required a lot force and violence in its implementation. The violence was physical, psychological, and, as the name suggests, cultural. It has left deep scars on the Chines society and the ramifications that are still felt. Since its end, a lot has been written about the Cultural Revolution, but until relatively recently scholars haven't had that much of an access to the official Chinese state documents and had to rely primarily on the outside and secondary sources.

"The Cultural Revolution: A Very Short Introduction" takes the advantage of all of the best recent scholarship on the subject, and presents a very interesting and insightful book on this subject. Richard Curt Klaus has written a very accessible and readable introduction to the Cultural Revolution, covering the years 1966-1976, as well as the decades that preceded them and the aftermath in the ensuing years.

One of this book's greatest strengths is its presentation of the forces that drove the Cultural Revolution in terms of power struggles in the top echelons of Chinese politics. This approach sheds a lot of light on otherwise opaque or seemingly irrational actions by Mao and the people around him. Far from being an absolute unassailable dictator, Mao was feeling very vulnerable in the 1960s, both from internal opposition as well as from the outside forces. From that standpoint the launch of the Cultural Revolution was a very rational, albeit devastating, attempt at consolidation of Mao's political base at home, as well as a way to sever foreign cultural ties. It all lead to China's international isolation and suppression of all forms of domestic dissent. The Cultural Revolution has indubitably had a devastating effect on Chinese society and economy, but Kraus argues that the seeds of the latter economic boom were already laid during this period.

The Cultural Revolution has taken a huge human toll on the Chines society, and the estimates of the total number of people killed range from half a million to about a million and a half, with many more millions tortured, imprisoned, or otherwise persecuted. It is one of the most outrageous periods of such large-scale persecutions in history, and like all the other mass killings it has received a fair amount of attention and discussion, both in scholarly works as well as in more general accounts. Unfortunately, I feel that this very short introduction doesn't properly do the justice to this aspect of Cultural Revolution. The book mentions some of the atrocities, but mostly in passing and somewhat in the background. Inclusion of a whole chapter dedicated just to the devastating human toll would have been more than appropriate.

Overall, I feel that this is a very good and insightful book, and anyone interested in the Cultural Revolution would benefit from reading it.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction with a lot of limitations 21 Jun 2012
By C. D. Varn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kraus's introduction actually suffers slightly from the limitations of the "very short introduction" format given the sheer scale and internal contradictions of both the Cultural Revolution and the Deng reforms thereafter. While hardly simplistic in its presentation, Kraus tries to stir his ship away from hagiography of the cultural revolution or just standard contempt. While missing several key elements of ethnic tension of non-Han ethnic groups within the cultural revolution, which is a significant omission, Kraus does use a good overview of much of the politics of the period and of the market liberalization that came thereafter. Glossing the legacy of violence can be seen as a problem, but the numbers on this are both well-known and impossible to meaningfully verify. The internal contradictions of Mao and Deng's ideology and their relationship is also hinted at, but not fully explored here. This, however, as a starting point for understanding the Cultural Revolution, is a decent beginning to a complicated and oft misunderstood (by both detractors and advocates) time period in Chinese and Communist history. Gaps on both Mao's advocacy of and deviation from classical Marxism, his on and off flirtations with pre-modern forms of Chinese nationalism and legalism, and his policy contradictions should be explored in books which are not "very short" introductions after beginning with this one.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to the subject 22 Sep 2012
By Richard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While reading "Mao's Last Revolution," (Roderick MacFarquhar, Michael Schoenhals) I realized I needed a brief overview of the Cultural Revolution to better organize all the material I was encountering. Professor Kraus' little book performed this task very well. I now feel prepared to return to Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals' much more detailed account of the Cultural Revolution.
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a wonderful little book for people who want to know more about the CR 6 April 2014
By hsw27 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is great! It gives the reader a brief outline of the CR events in chronological order, then delves into various aspects of the CR: economy, culture, in global context etc.

This book neither emphasizes on the traumatic aspect nor gives too much attention to elite politics of the CR, which are recounted in many other books, rather, it aims to help the reader understand the CR in broader context, both historical and global, and emphasizes on the aspect of continuity rather than rupture of the CR in Chinese history. Some people may certainly find the theme of this book surprising or unsatisfactory, but it is what makes it a great, albeit short, piece of historical analysis.

It serves as an excellent intro to the CR. It is remarkable how much Prof. Kraus has been able to achieve in such a small book.
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The Cultural Revolution was part of the global movement of radical youth in the 1960s and 1970s. &quote;
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The eruption of political turbulence after 1966 was fueled in part by their frustrations in carrying out these leftward initiatives against the resistance of a professional bureaucratic elite, which was busy developing a more stable and routinized system. &quote;
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Deng Xiaoping treated him like the corpse at a funeral, respecting his image but ignoring his views. &quote;
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