Through eight diverse case studies, this excellent collection examines how ordinary Chinese were affected by the “Cultural Revolution decade” (the official designation of 1966–76 is a better indication of the book's subject matter than the Cultural Revolution, which is more properly limited to 1966–68). It deliberately does not analyze central elite politics, leaving that task to other emerging studies. But the interaction of state and society is the central focus of the book, whether it involves lower levels of the official structure or the top leadership in Beijing. While the understanding of leadership politics that frames the stories tends to be overly conventional, the case studies succeed in providing rich insights into the contingent relationship of regime and populace.

The volume begins with a splendid introduction by the editors that reviews earlier scholarship on the Cultural Revolution (perceptively noting the “remarkably thin evidence” supporting some early interpretations), assesses newly available...

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