Karl Gerth, "Unending Capitalism: How Consumerism Negated China's Communist Revolution" (Cambridge UP, 2020)

Summary

Karl Gerth’s new book, Unending Capitalism: How Consumerism Negated China's Communist Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2020) details how the state created brands, promoted and advertised particular products, set up department stores, and facilitated the promotion of certain luxury consumer products (notably wristwatches, bicycles, and sewing machines)—all in the Mao era. Though not typically considered to be a period of Chinese history driven by consumerism, Gerth’s beautifully researched book shows how, in the early People’s Republic, the Communist Party expanded consumerism and built ‘state capitalism’, and the ferocity of consumer impulses and behaviors that followed.

Challenging, provocative, and precisely written, Unending Capitalism is sure to appeal to anyone interested in modern Chinese history and histories of capitalism, as well as any readers looking for a book that uses some really fascinating sources to complicate the dominant narrative of China’s ‘socialist’ history.


Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a PhD candidate at Harvard University. She works on Manchu language books and book history and loves anything with a good kesike in it. She can be reached at sbramaoramos@g.harvard.edu

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Sarah Bramao-Ramos

Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a Research Assistant Professor at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at the University of Hong Kong. She is a cultural historian of Qing China (1644–1911), with a particular interest in Manchu studies. She can be reached at sarahbr@hku.hk
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