Moving Closer to Village Tradition: Analysis of the Problem of “Dividing up Brigades and Teams” in the Early 1960s

向村庄传统靠拢——20世纪六十年代初期 “分队”问题剖释

In: Rural China
Xingang Guo (郭心钢) The Research Center for Chinese Social History, Shanxi University (山西大学中国社会史研究中心) Taiyuan China

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From the end of the 1950s to the early 1960s, the Party Central made positive adjustments to the people’s commune system. Each tier of the system was downsized. Existing scholarship has mainly provided macro-narratives or policy analyses of this episode of history from the perspective of political history or institutional history. Using archives on “dividing up brigades and teams” of the communes in Pucheng county in Shaanxi province, this article contends that, during the collectivization period, the state neglected the pre-existing environmental, social, economic, and cultural characteristics of villages, as well as the relationships among the villages, in the process of integrating them into larger units of collective production with a higher degree of public ownership, thus engendering new conflicts and ruptures in local society. During the process of “dividing up brigades and teams,” individuals and collectives used their legitimate rights of division to maximize their own interests, during which multiple forces were at play. To some extent, this led to a return to long-standing village traditions. These findings are crucial for us to understand the history of the adjustments in the people’s commune system and to reflect on the institution of agricultural collectives in the pre-Reform era.

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