Gifts, Favors, & Banquets: The Art of Social Relationships in China / Edition 1

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An elaborate and pervasive set of practices, called guanxi, underlies everyday social relationships in contemporary China. Obtaining and changing job assignments, buying certain foods and consumer items, getting into good hospitals, buying train tickets, obtaining housing, even doing business—all such tasks call for the skillful and strategic giving of gifts and cultivating of obligation, indebtedness, and reciprocity.Mayfair Mei-hui Yang's close scrutiny of this phenomenon serves as a window to view facets of a much broader and more complex cultural, historical, and political formation. Using rich and varied ethnographic examples of guanxi stemming from her fieldwork in China in the 1980s and 1990s, the author shows how this "gift economy" operates in the larger context of the socialist state redistributive economy.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"To what extent did traditional customs and practices persist under the surface during the decades of Mao's rule, or are present forms a genuine revival? To what extent do these revivals testify to the enduring strength of the Chinese cultural tradition or are they to be explained much more as reflections of popular experiences during the socialist and reform eras' Mayfair Yang's book represents one of the most ambitious and systematic attempts to deal with a whole range of such questions."—Martin King Whyte, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 56, 1994

"Mayfair Yang has produced a stimulating book on an important subject that is as ill-studied as it is pervasive in Chinese social life. No social scientist working on contemporary Chinese issues should be without this book, and interested laymen and undergraduates will find it indispensable in making sense of contemporary China."—Gene Cooper, Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, Vol. 12, 1994

"Dr. Yang has produced an original and readable study of the way that Chinese build and use networks in social, work and political life. The importance of 'guanxi' or 'connections' in life in the People's Republic has often been commented on. Good guanxi can make all the difference in bringing off business deals, getting into the best schools and hospitals, and obtaining jobs and accommodation. Goods in scarce supply, travel tickets and special foods may also be obtained through guanxi when they are not available for straightforward purchase. . . This is an excellent study of an important subject."—Delia Davin, Asia Affairs, Vol. 12, 1994

"This fine and original study, the first of its sort, on guanxixue, the 'art of connections' that pervades social relationships in China, teems with ideas and theories and makes sense of encounters that will ring loud bells in the ears of anyone who has lived in mainland China."—Gregor Benton, China Information, Vol. 10, 1995

"I heartily recommend this book. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the meaning of social relationships in Chinese society."—Gary G. Hamilton, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 12, 1994

"This is an important and exciting book, a must for all students of Chinese social organization and for all those interested in how the human realm may reassert itself within the absolute state."—F. B. Bessac, Choice, Vol. 32, 1995

"Gifts, Favors and Banquets is a pioneering work that has become the indispensable reference work for the ever-burgeoning studies of guanxi. It is an extraordinarily thick ethnography that reveals years of research, analysis, and a talent for storytelling."—Prasenjit Duara, The University of Chicago

"This is an admirably accomplished effort in critical ethnography to define a key cultural formation—that of guanxi—and then to demonstrate its complex traces, resonances, and effects in the events, small and large, of contemporary China."—George Marcus, University of California, Irvine

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Introduction: Fieldwork, Politics, and Modernity in China 1
The "Discovery" of Guanxixue 1
Guanxixue as an Object of Study 6
Fieldwork in a Culture of Fear 15
The Subject-Position of the Anthropologist 25
State Projects of Modernity in China and Native Critiques 31
1 Guanxi Dialects and Vocabulary 49
Popular Discourse 51
Official Discourse 58
Key Words and Concepts of Guanxixue in Popular Discourse 64
2 The Scope and Use-Contexts of Guanxi 75
The City and the Countryside 75
The Gender Dimension 78
Urban Occupational Strata 85
The Variety of Use-Contexts 91
A Society of Gatekeepers 99
Corporate and Administrative Uses 101
3 The "Art" in Guanxixue: Ethics, Tactics, and Etiquette 109
Guanxi Bases: Kinship, Friendship, and Other Personal Relations 111
Affective Sentiments: Yiqi, Ganqing, and Renqing 119
Enlarging a Guanxi Network 123
The Tactic, Obligation, and Form of Giving and Receiving 126
The Obligation to Repay 139
4 On the Recent Past of Guanxixue: Traditional Forms and Historical (Re-)Emergence 146
Three Official Histories 146
Guanxixue and Chinese Culture 148
The Postrevolutionary Decline and Rise of Guanxixue 153
From "Use-Value" to "Exchange-Value": The Entrance of Market Forces 159
The Art of Guanxi Does Not Retreat 166
5 The Political Economy of Gift Relations 177
The Techniques of Power in the State Redistributive Economy 179
Countertechniques in the Gift Economy 188
Propositions 204
6 "Using the Past to Negate the Present": Ritual Ethics and State Rationality in Ancient China 209
"Criticize Lin Biao, Criticize Confucius" 210
A Reinterpretation of the Past 216
7 The Cult of Mao, Guanxi Subjects, and the Return of the Individual 245
A Sweep of Red: State Subjects and the Cult of Mao 247
The Return of the Individual Subject 276
Guanxi Subjectivity of Addition and Subtraction 281
8 Rhizomatic Networks and the Fabric of an Emerging Minjian in China 287
In-between the Individual and Society 295
In-between the Individual and Groups or Associations 300
Rhizomatic Kinship and Guanxi Polity: From Guanxi Networks to a Minjian 305
Conclusion: Back to the Source 312
The Female Supple Force of Exchange 312
Ritual as a Self-organizing Vehicle of the Minjian 317
Renqing over Guanxi 320
Glossary 323
Chinese and Japanese Bibliography 334
English Bibliography 341
Index 361
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