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

Elena Obukhova, Ezra W. Zuckerman and Jiayin Zhang
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 120, No. 2 (September 2014), pp. 555-583
DOI: 10.1086/678318
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/678318
Page Count: 29
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When Politics Froze Fashion: The Effect of the Cultural Revolution on Naming in Beijing
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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.

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