Towards a Neo-Eliasian Framework for Processual-Relational Sociology: The Case of Chinese Party-State Formation, 1920-1953

Thursday, 19 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Andreas MULVAD, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Lars Bo KASPERSEN, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Taking its cue from Norbert Elias’s methodological prescriptions for figurational analysis, the first part of this paper proposes a novel methodological framework for relational and processual sociology. Through a critical discussion of Michael Mann’s celebrated, but static-substantialist Neo-Weberian framework, we develop a Neo-Eliasian model of analysis based on four crucial techniques: 1) disaggregating research objects, 2) constructing phase models, 3) emphasizing constitutive social relations, and 4) specifying figurational matrices. The second part illustrates the framework in action by engaging with one empirical case study: the formation of the People’s Republic of China. We thus apply the model to discuss how the Communist Party of China (CCP) developed from an informal network of fewer than 100 individuals into a state elite in little more than three decades. We propose a testable ‘phase model’ of CCP development between 1920 and 1953 to show how the CCP did not enter the scene as a fully formed historical ‘agent’, but only gradually became constituted as one through shifting friend/enemy relations with the Soviet Union, the Nationalist Party (KMT), Japan, and the US. We distinguish three phases, each marked by the gradual, contested breakthrough of a new strategy for strengthening CCP power through popular mobilization: urban worker-based Bolshevization until Chiang Kai-Shek’s crackdown on the CCP in 1927, peasant-based guerrillafication until the Red Army’s successful Manchurian Campaign in the civil war against KMT in late 1948, and finally ‘national-popular’ statification until the stalemate with the US in the Korean War in 1953. Thus, we reject conventional knowledge that the Second United Front (late 1937) and the ‘Liberation’ of 1949 should be treated as ‘turning points’.