Back Cover Blurbs and Foreword

Dr. Chang expands the utility of micro-level discourse analysis techniques in his investigation of three macro-level idea systems: witch hunt social movements, Mao-era revolutionary campaigns, and the US War on Terror. The result is a fresh understanding of each system, original insight into their historical similarities, and an intriguing display of the strategies that systems leaders deploy to retain power." 

~Hugh B. Mehan

Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of California, San Diego

Gordon Chang’s bold and stunning book excavates the ideological codes that sustain social and political movements across time, space, and cultures. Ranging from early modern European witchcraft to the Chinese cultural revolution and the US war on terrorism, this comparative study provides illuminating insights and reflections on how new ideas morph into social movements with rare and extreme political consequences. The book provides an essential roadmap for exploring the symbolic links of ideas to the institutional frameworks that perpetuate them. It is a stimulating and informative 'must read' for scholars of social and political philosophy and students of the sociology of knowledge.

~Bennetta Jules-Rosette

Distinguished Professor of Sociology and 

Director of African and African-American Studies Research Center, 

University of California, San Diego

Blurbs from Scholars and Professionals

"Chang’s book is a fascinating study of idea systems, that is, sets of interrelated ideas. They are comprised of multiple parts that fit together into a complex system. His empirical comparisons are equally interesting: he uses European Witchcraft (1450 to 1750) as an example of an idea system that is empirically driven, the Chinese communist Revolution (1949 to 1976) as an example of an idea system that is ideationally driven, and the US War on Terror (2001 to 2004) as a hybrid example with both components. In this way, he avoids a simple dichotomy between past and present, modern and premodern, but instead investigates them on their own terms. This book is a great read, regardless of whether or not the reader agrees with the cultural sociology perspective deployed in it. It is a wonderful, highly original book!"

~Professor Rebecca Jean Emigh, Professor, Sociology, UCLA

"Revolution and Witchcraft offers a highly interdisciplinary project...[that] engages with a wide range of scholarship across history, media studies, cognition, and sociology. Gordon Chang provides a wealth of useful tools and terminologies for readers wishing to examine how ideologies function and fit together.

~J.R. Osborn, Associate Professor of Communication, Culture & Technology (CCT) 

and Co-Director of the Iteration Lab, Georgetown University


"In Revolution and Witchcraft, Gordon Chang puts on a clinic in historical episodes. He walks the reader through a sophisticated theoretical framework for how humans produce knowledge, and then puts the theory to work in analyzing case studies that demonstrate how seemingly minor ideological variations can have monumental real-world impacts. While the case studies are familiar, Chang's insights are fresh and thought-provoking." 

~Sean Dinces, Historian and Author of Bulls Markets

"Gordon Chang has written a highly relevant new book on the sociology and culture of thought, media cognition, and political ideology that will influence many, including academics, critical theorists, investigative journalists, and media pundits in our “post-truth” world.  Chang provides more than sixty concise and analytical, working concepts for the serious student of media and the social manipulation of ideas. The cultural mayhem produced by idealized, partisan codes, the politics of representation, religious-political movements of obfuscating codified discourse, the semiotics of ideology, and more, are all fluidly presented in modern contexts such as the European witch hunts and demonization of social outcasts (comparable to today), radical Maoist “revolutions” in China that germinated elastic (and suspect) mindsets, and George Bush’s evangelistic “War on Terror”.  Analysts of political discourse and codes, utopia scholars, historians, semioticians of media and “idea-making technologies”, social linguists, news media, and those seeking to make sense of these unsettled times, will find Chang’s book an incisive and brilliant, multiform conceptual tool kit. I highly recommend it."

~Pierce J. Flynn, PhD, CEO of Blue Sky Consulting 

and Author of The Ethnomethodological Movement: Sociosemiotic Interpretations

"In this remarkable book, Gordon Chang innovatively approaches fundamental questions around individual and societal motivations—past and present. Encompassing unique case studies spanning different yet interrelated geographic and historic contexts, Chang demonstrates new avenues for analytically rigorous, cutting-edge sociological theory. This book will be of great interest to scholars across disciplines, but especially cultural studies, Asian Studies, and Global Studies." 

~Alex Jong-Seok Lee, Anthropology PhD

Scholarly Review Essays and Statements

Book Review by Dr. Kent Sandstrom in Social Forces (August 30, 2023):

Extract: "What are ideologies? How are they organized, disseminated, and activated? How and why does this matter? And why are people so vulnerable to idea systems that can have such destructive social consequences? ...Revolution and Witchcraft...thoughtfully addresses these questions..."

Book Review by Dr. Frederick Erickson in Discourse & Communication (2024):

Extract: "Chang’s book combines culturally oriented sociology with intellectual history and critical discourse analysis in a magisterial account of ideology as a social and cultural formation that warrants and enables local social action and belief....As we ponder Chang’s discussion we may wonder if George Orwell may have been an optimist."

Book Review by Dr. Claes Tängh Wrangel in Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis Across Disciplines (CADAAD Journal)  (2024):

Extract: "...if there is one thing that we have learned from the works of critical discourse theory it is to not place our hope for another world in the intellectual capacity of a predefined elite, but rather to identify this hope in the im/possibilities of language, in what Eagleton calls the “unfinished nature of the actual” (2015, p.52). Beyond his normative claims, Chang’s empirical analyses offers those of us interested in identifying and acting on such im/possibilities an invaluable set of analytical resources, primed to the task of deconstructing the power of ideas."

Book Review by Dr. Terry S. H. Au-Yeung in Symbolic Interaction (2024): 

Extract: "...the book formulates ideological systems akin to a karmic “thing” in Mahay ¯ ana Buddhism (Liberman 2015)—a synchronic achievement with diachronic consequences—through codification. Codification, formulated as an interactional process, cuts a middle-path between holistic causality and the agency of social actors in it. It considers the holistic view that an idea system is a dependent co-arising from conditions and individuals and groups committing to deeds of their respective will, morality, and politics, but at the same time idealizes some actors as designers, manipulators, or activators contributing ad initium or interim of the lifecycle of an idea system.."

Links to Press Release and Public Reviews

Press Release at Western Illinois University (April 5, 2023):

Book Review in Author Anthony Avina's Blog (March 29, 2023):

Book Interview in The Cameron Journal (April 14, 2023):

Covered in Frankfurt Underground: Newsletter of the Research Network on Dialectics & Society, August 2023. Volume 7. Issue 2, p.8:

Covered in Newsletter of the American Sociological Association's section on Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis (EMCA), Spring 2023 Issue:

Honorable Mention, Midwest Sociological Society’s 2024 Distinguished Book Award.

Covered in New Books Network Podcast (June 14, 2024), with host Michael O. Johnston,

More Contents to Come

This book, highly transdisciplinary, can be benefited by having scholars and professionals connect to multiple fields and audiences.  If you are a scholar or professional interested in offering offering a blurb or a review essay on this website, please email