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Politics of the Chinese Cultural Revolution

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Andrew G. Walder
Principal Investigator

Professor Andrew Walder has been examining the large collections of new documentary materials from the 1960s that have become available in recent years. He has discovered that these materials cast doubt on reigning sociological interpretations of Red Guard politics, particularly those that see political factions as expressions of social differences. On closer examination, Red Guard motives were more political than social in their origins. They require an intimate understanding of the actions of party and government officials, in a situation where the collapse of normal expectations places everyone under heightened threat. Professor Walder's project on the politics of the Chinese Cultural Revolution aims to develop analyses of collective action in which participants are not assumed to have fixed identities and interests, and in which the need to avoid loss rather than gain advantage drives participants. These ideas may have broader applicability to fundamentalist movements in certain historical settings, and to the emergence of ethnic warfare in collapsing states.