Liberation through Labor? The Urban Commune Movement in Beijing

Nov 20, 2019, 4:30 pm4:30 pm
202 Jones



Event Description

In the years between 1958 and 1962, the Urban Commune movement was promoted as a radical effort to change the daily lives of Chinese city residents, including their relationship to work, eating, care of the self and of the family. It was especially aimed at completely altering the conditions of women (urban “housewives”): by freeing them from the drudgery of cooking, cleaning, and childcare and inserting them into the “truly productive” life of factory work, the movement aimed at achieving a new form of everyday, based on a true equality of gender relationships, accomplished through the shared creativity of manual labor. But early reports of success (down to the elimination of gossip and renewed spousal bliss) eventually gave way to more grim assessments of continuing exploitation, factory alienation, and persistent inequality. 

By looking at both the theoretical discussions and the experimental practices of collectivization in Beijing, this paper shows that while the movement failed, it nonetheless brought to the fore some of the crucial tensions that marred the search for a socialist everyday: between welfare and development, between labor and liberation, and between production and social reproduction.

East Asian Studies Program
Event Category