Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1878678
 
 

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Why Was There No Fashion in Mao’s China? Effects of Politics on Culture in the Case of Chinese Naming Practices


Elena Obukhova


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Ezra W. Zuckerman


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Jiayin Zhang


affiliation not provided to SSRN

July 4, 2011


Abstract:     
We examine the popularity distribution of given names prior, during, and after Mao Zedong’s rule over the People’s Republic of China to clarify how exogenous and endogenous factors act together in shaping cultural change. Whereas recent work in the sociology of culture emphasizes the importance of endogenous processes in explaining fashion (Kaufman 2004), our analysis demonstrates two ways that Mao’s regime impacted cultural expression, even in a domain that was largely untouched by its radical cultural policies: (a) by promoting forms of expression reflecting legitimate political ideologies; and (b) by creating a general feeling of insecurity, whereby citizens fear that any public expression of difference could signal political disloyalty. As argued by Lieberson (2000; Lieberson and Lynn 2003) and developed further in this paper, the latter condition is important because endogenous fashion cycles require a critical mass of individuals who seek to differentiate themselves from common practice. Our analysis suggests how exogenous and endogenous mechanisms interact, with the former setting the conditions for the operation of the latter; our analysis also sheds light on the nature of conformity under authoritarian regimes as well as the social conditions supporting individual expression.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 77

Keywords: Differentiation, fashion, politics, China

working papers series


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Date posted: July 6, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Obukhova, Elena and Zuckerman, Ezra W. and Zhang, Jiayin, Why Was There No Fashion in Mao’s China? Effects of Politics on Culture in the Case of Chinese Naming Practices (July 4, 2011). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1878678 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1878678

Contact Information

Elena Obukhova (Contact Author)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )
77 Massachusetts Ave.
E62-416
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
Ezra W. Zuckerman Sivan
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )
77 Massachusetts Ave.
E62-416
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
Jiayin Zhang
affiliation not provided to SSRN
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