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Mao's Little Red Book : A Global History

Alexander C. Cook is Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley, where he teaches modern Chinese history. His research examines Maoism in its domestic and global contexts. His publications include the chapter on 'Third World Maoism' in A Critical Introduction to Mao (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and a forthcoming book on the Gang of Four trial in China.

Mao's Little red book : a global history

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All in all, this excellent volume demonstrates that Maoism, like Marxism-Leninism, was used by local actors strategically. The reception of the Little Red Book was mostly coded in the cultural codes of receiving cultures (including the social context and the structure of labour and communist movements), something we need to keep in mind in studies of other topics. Last but not least, a work of global history that centres on the circulation of an Asian intellectual product, this volume is a reminder that we need to account for global and non-Western histories to adequately understand familiar national narratives of our own.

2014 is the fiftieth anniversary of the initial publication of Quotations from Chairman Mao, better known as the Little Red Book (LRB). To mark the occasion, Alexander C. Cook has assembled papers originally delivered at an October 2011 conference on the origin, production, distribution, and influence of the LRB that have been revised for publication. The result is the first scholarly attempt to understand the LRB as a global historical phenomenon which, at the height of its popularity in the decade from 1964 to 1974, was the most printed book in the world: over a billion official copies in thirty-six languages were sold in addition to unofficial copies in over fifty languages. The foundational premise of this edited volume is that, given its worldwide circulation but quite different local appropriations, a global history of the LRB could not be adequately presented by one individual; such a history needed to be a collaborative scholarly effort by national and regional experts. This is a reasonable premise given the scope and complexity of the topic.

The book although widely popular in many parts of the world was a complete flop in the Soviet Union. China and the USSR had a difference of opinion that sometimes lead to bloodshed. China saw revolution as active and the USSR believed it achieved all there was. Mao said the Soviet Union lost its way with industrialization; the people no longer poor or agrarian had lost touch with the revolution. The book also was not a hit in the Western Hemisphere. In America, outside of Berkeley and the Black Panthers, it had little effect. Although South and Latin America had more than their share of communist influence, it was mostly from Moscow. The exception, however, was on of the most well known revolutionary/terror groups in the Western Hemisphere: The Shining Path.

Taking as her starting point the global distribution of the Little Red Book to more than 100 countries in the eight months between October 1966 and May 1967, Xu Lanjun examines the process of translation in the context of Maoist ideas of global revolution. Quinn Slobodian discusses the impact the book had in eastern and western Germany. In the concluding essay, Ban Wang considers the Little Red Book and religion as politics" in China. Elsewhere, its influence in Tanzania, India, Peru, Albania and the former Soviet Union is discussed. 041b061a72

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