The Kiangsi Soviet marked the first systematic attempt by the Chinese Communist party to use existing peasant models of collective action for purposes of building an independent military apparatus. The history of that attempt is here examined against the background of the moral economy school's claim that revolutionary movements in twentieth-century Asia have successfully wedded themselves to such traditional patterns of action in order to achieve larger political purposes. This analysis of the politics of mobilization inside the soviet area finds that peasant society was traditionally too stratified and too divided against itself to offer unified resistance to threatening external forces, and emphasizes that mobilization tended to engage collective competitive instincts, setting groups of peasants against each other, rather than against hated representatives of post-traditional authority in the countryside. This finding is in turn used as a point of departure for raising some larger questions about the model of revolutionary legitimacy postulated by James C. Scott and the moral economists.

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