American Journal of Cultural Sociology

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 79–100 | Cite as

Staging communism: state control and the Chinese Model Opera

  • Hexuan ZhangEmail author
  • Sarah M. Corse
Original Article


In this paper, we draw on the case of Chinese Model Opera during the Cultural Revolution to demonstrate not only an extreme case of political control over cultural production but to consider the role of the state’s involvement in the consumption side of cultural politics. In addition to a textual analysis of the videos and librettos of 11 Model Operas, we analyze 274 reports and reviews related to Model Operas in the People’s Daily (Renmin Ribao) from the period 1964 to 1976, as well as supplement government documents. Our analysis of Chinese Model Opera extends our theoretical understanding of the potential relationships between political power and culture. Totalitarian regimes that take culture seriously, understanding art as a crucial resource in the reconstruction of society, may expand their involvement to direct not just what type of art is produced, but the conditions of its viewing, interpretation, and evaluation.


Model Opera State control Production Consumption Cultural revolution 



We would like to thank the editors and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions. We would also like to thank Allison Pugh and the participants of her 2015 writing workshop for their help in developing this paper.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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