‘The revolution will not be televised’ : the institutional work of radical change in China’s Cultural Revolution

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

4 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations


  • Andrew Chan
  • Stewart Clegg
  • Miguel Pina e Cunha
  • Arménio Rego

Related Research Unit(s)


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-83
Journal / PublicationJournal of Political Power
Issue number1
Online published2 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


Mao Zedong sought both to destabilize existing institutional categories for ordering meaning, and impose new ones, initially through the Great Leap Forward and subsequently during the Cultural Revolution. The paper explores the institutional work that made this process of radical change possible. At its core was the construction and deployment of a set of binary categorization devices. These are explored in the paper to argue that persistent and morally sophisticated institutional work is necessary to make radical change possible. Macro, meso and micro processes of institutional work operate in parallel, reinforcing each other and articulating utopian desire with local possibility. There is no single revolutionary event, no central scene to be represented. Together, leaders and followers at several levels participate in the processes of categorizing and managing the result of such categorizations. Categorizations of radical change have explicitly stigmatizing purposes and managing categorization/stigmatization is an important institutional work, instrumental for radical change.

Research Area(s)

  • categorization, cult of personality, Cultural Revolution, institutional work, Mao Zedong