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The Socialist Transformation of Funeral Companies in Shanghai (1949–1957)

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The takeover of the city by the People’s Liberation Army in May 1949 marked the beginning of a process of transformation of all commercial and industrial companies in Shanghai. The funeral business companies represented a small sector, yet one that had great significance in everyday life. The ccp sought to control the private funeral companies almost as soon as it took over the city. The new authorities envisioned a radical transformation of the whole funeral business. While they exhibited remarkable efficiency in conducting the process of progressive elimination of many companies and placing the whole funeral business under strict guidance, the ‘socialist transformation’ resulted in a system riddled with inefficiency, mismanagement and mistrust. The ccp built on the experience it had acquired previously, but with Shanghai it also needed to adapt to the challenge of managing a large and complex metropolis. I argue that the ccp successfully enlisted the trade associations to implement its policy through means of ideological dominance, persuasion techniques, threat and sheer coercion. The short but strong protest of the former managers of companies during the Hundred Flowers Movement made visible the powerful political machine that drove their companies into public–private joint management, then full socialisation.

Affiliations: 1: Université de Lyon (Lyon 2), Institut d'Asie Orientale


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