A State of Imbalance: Corporal Politics and Moral Order in Contemporary China
This dissertation traces how liberal market rationalities permeate social and behavioral logics in late-socialist China to reveal how attachments to a socialist understanding of morality and emergent neoliberal rationality are entangled in the narrative of socialist development in China. The ethnographic core of the research involves an examination of rural families traveling to urban centers to seek medical care and public charity; petitioners pursuing redress for medical malpractice within a serpentine bureaucratic system; the promotion of organ donation through public education campaigns; the entrepreneurial zeal among urban, middle-class Chinese professionals engaged in self- improvement projects; and the speculative practices that support the production of counterfeit medicines and foodstuffs. The chapters focus on how Chinese citizens negotiate the uneven, unstable terrain of globalization and neoliberal market expansion. The stories and encounters under examination seek to understand how Chinese citizens struggle to make accommodations to the new economic order by adopting "enterprising" logics in their aspirations for a better life, and resisting unjust bureaucratic practices in an exercise of citizenship rights. At the same time, each of the cases illustrates how economic liberalization has brought along new social challenges for the Chinese Communist Party to set the public moral agenda. The uneasy balance between communitarian values of social sacrifice and neoliberal values of individualistic enrichment illustrates the limitations of an economy of hope built on speculation for resolving the growing disparities of the socioeconomic order. The stories of poverty and hardship that circulate as modern morality tales exist alongside tales of entrepreneurial success in the expanding market economy premised upon a new allocation of risk and value. The examples of fragmentation, dislocation, and contradiction are effects of the pace of development in China today and fuel both China's rise and internal turmoil. The dissertation addresses the contours of the Chinese state, its projects of moral revitalization, and its use of neoliberal ruling technologies under conditions of economic liberalization that have transformed the terrain and texture of everyday life in late-socialist China.
0342: Asian Studies