When Politics Froze Fashion: The Effect of the Cultural Revolution on Naming in Beijing

American Journal of Sociology 120: 4 (September 2014): 555–83

30 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2015

See all articles by Elena Obukhova

Elena Obukhova

Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University

Ezra W. Zuckerman

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

Jiayin Zhang

Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management

Date Written: September 1, 2014

Abstract

The authors examine the popularity of boys’ given names in Beijing before and after the onset of the Cultural Revolution to clarify how exogenous and endogenous factors interact to shape fashion. Whereas recent work in the sociology of culture emphasizes the importance of endogenous processes in explaining fashion, their analysis demonstrates two ways in which politics shaped cultural expression during the Cultural Revolution: by promoting forms of expression reflecting prevailing political ideology and by limiting individuals’ willingness to act differently. As argued by Lieberson and developed further in this article, the second condition is important because endogenous fashion cycles require a critical mass of individuals who seek to differentiate themselves from common practice. Exogenous factors can influence the operation of the endogenous factors. The authors discuss the implications of their study for understanding the nature of conformity under authoritarian regimes and social conditions supporting individual expression.

Keywords: culture, fashion, names, China

Suggested Citation

Obukhova, Elena and Zuckerman Sivan, Ezra W. and Zhang, Jiayin, When Politics Froze Fashion: The Effect of the Cultural Revolution on Naming in Beijing (September 1, 2014). American Journal of Sociology 120: 4 (September 2014): 555–83. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2690893

Elena Obukhova (Contact Author)

Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University ( email )

1001 Sherbrooke St. West
Montreal, Quebec H3A1G5 H3A 2M1
Canada
5143985919 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.mcgill.ca/desautels/elena-obukhova

Ezra W. Zuckerman Sivan

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

100 Main Street
E62-416
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Jiayin Zhang

Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management ( email )

Beijing, 100084
China

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