iChina: The Rise of the Individual in Modern Chinese Society

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edited by Mette Halskov Hansen and Rune Svarverud

In spite of the intense preoccupation with individual and self in modern Western thought, the social sciences have tended to focus on groups and collectives and downplay the individual. This implicit view has also coloured the study of social life in China where both Confucian ethics and Communist policies have shaped collective structures with little room for individual agency and choice. What is actually happening, however, is a growing individualization of China – not only changing perceptions of the individual but also rising expectations for individual freedom, choice and individuality. The individual has also become a basic social category in China, and a development has begun that permeates all areas of social, economic and political life. How this process evolves in a state and society lacking two of the defining characteristics of European individualization – a culturally embedded democracy and a welfare system – is one of the questions that the volume explores. A strength of this volume is that its authors succeed in depicting the individualization process in conceptually acute and empirically sensitive terms, and as something with its own distinctively Chinese profile. That makes this book a 'must read’ for all those wanting to understand present-day Chinese society, with all of its ambivalences, contingencies and contradictions.

"[E]ssential reading for anyone interested in the social dynamics at work in China. Citing the emergence of identities and individual subjectivities, it demands to be read in relation to other work centered on the invention of new communities - what we might call “weChina”." - Gilles Guiheux, Université Paris Diderot, translated

A scholar long engaged in Chinese society, Mette Halskov Hansen is professor of China studies at the University of Oslo. Currently, she is Vice-Rector for Climate & the Environment and Cross-Disciplinarity.

Also working at Oslo University, Rune Svarverud's main academic interests are the language, history and intellectual history of China.

Publication year: 2010
296 pp / 229mm x 152mm
2 tables
ISBN: 978-87-7694-053-9, Paperback
ISBN: 978-87-7694-052-2, Hardback

NIAS Press