HIEA 1501 EA Marxism Syllabus

Spring 2012

Robert Stolz


Office Hours: Wed 11-1230 & by appt

Reading Schedule

Course Description

This is course on the theory and practice of Marxism in East Asia—focusing mainly on Japan and China with some consideration of North Korea. We will begin by building up a familiarity with Marxist thought and terminology with readings by Marx and Lenin. We will then consider the historical conditions which led to the growth of Marxism East Asia. All readings, schedule changes, paper and exam questions, and due dates will be posted here.

Course Goals

While the object of our investigation is Marxism in Asia, the ultimate objective of this course is to gain a deeper theoretical and historical understanding of the current condition of capitalism in Asia and elsewhere. To do so we will ask the following questions:

  • What is the relationship between capitalist imperialism in Asia and the upheaval of the Marxist movement in Japan, China, and other Asian countries?
  • What was the status of Japanese Marxism once Japan itself had become an imperialist nation in East Asia?
  • While it is relatively unknown, there is a critique within the Marxism circle which believes Soviet socialism was just another form of capitalism (e.g., State capitalism). We will consider Mao’s critique of the Soviet economy as a critique of an actually existing socialism. What were the essences of Mao’s critique of the Soviet economy (and economics)? How did his critique lead to the attempt to pursue an alternative socialist socio-economic system in China?
  • How did Mao try to modernize China without reproducing capitalist misery and crises? Did he succeed? If not, in what way did he fail? What is the relation of the Maoist period to capitalist development in post-Mao China?
  • In the course of our investigation, we will keep coming back to the following fundamental questions; what is the essence of capitalism that persists even in actually existing socialism(s), and what is the essence upon which capitalism depends?

Required Texts

Meisner, Mao’s China and After (must be 3d ed.)

Bernstein, Japanese Marxist

Armstrong, The North Korean Revolution

Optional Texts

Capital vol I, Penguin, translated by Ben Fowkes

Rebecca Karl, Mao Zedong and China in the Twentieth-Century World

Requirements and Grading

There will be a take-home midterm exam and a take-home final. In addition you will be graded on class participation—both written and spoken. There will also be short (2-3 pages) writing assignments to keep track of issues from week to week that will serve as the basis of discussion. Take-home topics will be assigned closer to the exam dates. Due dates will be posted on the schedule on the website. The mid-term take-home will be from 1500-2000 words and the final from 2000-3000 words.


Participation 30%

Short writing exercises 15%a

Take-home mid-term 20%

Take-home final 35%