[PAST EVENT] Karl Gerth: Mao Badge Fad: How a State-Supported Consumer Fad undermined the Socialist Revolution

January 31, 2019
5pm - 7pm
Blow Memorial Hall, Room 332
262 Richmond Rd
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
Access & Features
  • Open to the public
Chairman Mao and Lin Biao

The Mao Badge Fad: How a State-Supported Consumer Fad undermined the Socialist Revolution. This talk reinterprets one of the most famous phenomenon of the Cultural Revolution, the Mao badge fad, when tens of millions of Chinese collected billions of badges of Chairman Mao. The Cultural Revolution was intended to be the single greatest anti-bourgeois campaign of the Mao era (1949-76). But in its most famous activities such as badge collecting, the Cultural Revolution also nourished a thriving bourgeois consumer culture that encouraged consumer desire, production outside of state planning, and inequality through unequal distribution and conspicuous consumption. Badge collecting was, to borrow Mao?s expression, the negation rather than the fulfillment of the Socialist Revolution. 

Karl Gerth is Professor of History and Hwei-chih and Julia Hsiu Endowed Chair in Chinese Studies at the University of California, San Diego. His most recent book, As China Goes, So Goes the World: How Chinese Consumers Are Transforming Everything (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010) explores whether Chinese consumers can rescue the economy without creating even deeper global problems. He is also the author of China Made: Consumer Culture and the Creation of the Nation (Harvard University Press, 2003). Currently, he is completing a book that investigates the impact of consumerism in China?s urban centers following the establishment of the communist state in 1949.

Prof. Gerth is a guest of the Decolonizing Humanities Project and also will be visiting and worshopping with the Asian and Middle East and APIA Studies Senior Seminar.