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Description - The Ordinary and the Extraordinary by Frank N. Pieke

This work began as a study of the dynamics of Chinese state socialist society under the impact of ten years of reform. Workers, lower level state cadres and private entrepreneurs were interviewed on the ordinary strategies of daily life in China; on such phenomena as corruption, the use of kinship and friendship networks, relations with superiors and colleagues at work and the rapidly increasing use of money for legal and illegal purposes. Approaching the problem from the perspective of the common Beijing resident illuminated the dynamic interaction between the fabric of daily life and the course taken by the reforms. Then came the People's Movement, a "total event" which sucked people into its vortex and which cut them off from all other concerns, and suspending them in a state of disequilibrium. Commonplace activities which normally filled their day were replaced by an active involvement in the affairs of the nation. This book attempts to reconcile two apparently different sets of behaviour - the ordinary and the extraordinary - exhibited by the same people. Part one argues that static social and cultural factors cannot provide satisfactory explanations of the interrelations between the ordinary and the extraordinary. The key lies in the creative interactive work engaged in by social actors as they adapt or recontextualize their past experiences to the strategic and tactical requirements of the current situation. Part two argues that the economic reforms of the past decade have created three different spheres of social action: the planned economy, the market economy and interpersonal relations, each with its distinct social structure, models of strategic and tactical behaviour, and moral order. In order to survive, no one in Beijing can limit his or her actions to only one sphere. The increasing influence of the market and interpersonal spheres in the practice of ordinary life forced all citizens to engage in an almost daily basis in actions which in effect refuted the validity of a socialist morality in which they still believed. This in turn led to a moral crisis which explains why so many people were willing to support the People's Movement in 1989. Since 1989, disenchantment has been turned into contempt for politics and seasoned cynicism about society; materialism and self-serving behaviour have become the norm. The study concludes that the impression the Movement made on the people of Beijing has been much too profound to be erased, and that the present leadership is sitting on a time bomb.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780710305404
ISBN-10: 0710305400
Format: Hardback
(234mm x 156mm x mm)
Pages: 298
Imprint: Kegan Paul
Publisher: Kegan Paul
Publish Date: 4-Jan-1996
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

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