Social Foundations of National Anthems: Theorizing for a Better Understanding of the Changing Fate of the National Anthem of China
Article first published online: 23 DEC 2011
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour
Volume 42, Issue 1, pages 106–127, March 2012
How to Cite
LIAO, T. F., ZHANG, G. and ZHANG, L. (2012), Social Foundations of National Anthems: Theorizing for a Better Understanding of the Changing Fate of the National Anthem of China. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 42: 106–127. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-5914.2011.00480.x
- Issue published online: 24 FEB 2012
- Article first published online: 23 DEC 2011
A national anthem is arguably one of the most powerful symbols for a nation-state, with impact beyond its ceremonial purposes. One source of its power lies in the lyrical content, bearing imprints of the past and texts for potentially guiding future behavior.
In this paper we study the social foundations of national anthems with the Chinese national anthem as a case by analyzing its production through two changing texts—the lyrics of the anthem and key political documents from the period of 1949–2005. The current national anthem, “March of the Volunteers,” adopted in 1949, was forbidden during the Cultural Revolution, and was restored in 1978, albeit with a new set of lyrics, and used until 1982 when the original lyrics were restored.
Drawing upon the literature on collective focus (as defined by Cerulo) and social relations (as informed by Weber), we build a theoretical model for understanding the changes in the Chinese national anthem. According to this model, the creation of collective memory in the form of a national anthem is conditioned by the cognitive and social context in terms of the type of collective focus (singular or multiple) and the kind of top-bottom social relation (rational or traditional). The changing fate of the Chinese national anthem illustrates the efficacy of the theoretical model.