The Future Is Now: Theory and Method of the Newborn Socialist Thing

Whereas the contemporary era in China is often depicted in terms of rampant, ideologically vacuous commodification, the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) is typically cast as a time of ubiquitous politics and scarce goods. Indeed, the media and material culture of the Cultural Revolution are often characterized as a void, out of which the postsocialist world of commodity consumption somehow sprang fully formed. By contrast, this talk argues that the Cultural Revolution media environment and the ways in which its constituent elements engaged contemporaneous discourses of materiality and political economy anticipated the widespread commodification now so closely associated with the Reform Period (1978-present).
Laurence Coderre is an assistant professor of East Asian Studies at New York University.