Introduction. Post-Mao, Post-Bourdieu: Class Culture in Contemporary China

Stephanie Hemelryk Donald
Yi Zheng


This special issue of Portal Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies explores the relationship between taste, choice and social stratification in contemporary China. It is premised on the observation that the past thirty years of accelerated Reform policies have initiated a system of authoritarian capitalism, which fosters a network of social values, focussed on opportunity and struggle figured through financial achievement and consumption, and given affective meaning through nationalism. Not all Chinese enjoy the full gamut of these experiences, although most partake in struggle in some form. Opportunity arises mainly from the cultural capital, financial and social position of one’s parents, and, to some degree, from innate talent and hard work, an urban upbringing, and national provisions for educational advantage. Pre-existing forms of influence and power—local networks, Party membership, sufficient funds for education—are the strongest determinants of sustained success. In some cases, the opportunity for wealth creation has allowed some social mobility for entrepreneurial minds, whilst also re-establishing privilege amongst those whose status was already high through long term political or intellectual activity.

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