Emerging Cultural Markets and Private Enterprise in China: Managing Change in Values, Family and Futures

David G. Hudgens

PhD Thesis 2003

This dissertation is a study of sociocultural change in contemporary China. It specifically addresses uraban China by analyzing, discussing and describing the Chinese family in the 1990s. As an analysis of the family, this study oscillates between the general and the particular, the global and the local, and the dynamic relationship between culture and economy that informs us about processes of change. Based upon extensive participant observation, this study presents the private enterprise family as an embodiment of change reflecting the general direction in which China is heading in the early twenty-first century: a decentralizing, market-oriented economy whose forces necessarily influence individual values as well as the institutions and political formations of state and society. The specific forcus on Chinese families engaged in private enterprise examines their daily lives as the cultural constitution of a community and as a component of a social stratum in contemporary China. The families that inform this study are identified by their participation in the private sector of China's economy. They are also further distinguished as parents and children as they represent a specific generation of Chinese at this particular point in China's history. The manner in which they "live culturally" and participate in the economic and cultural markets provides us with a rich area upon which to gain further insight into how the processes of change within local contexts constitute the dynamic social form of the largest polity in the world. In theoretical terms, this study provides ethnographic content for scholarly debates on the continuum in which both individual agency and social structure serve as prime determinants of human behavior and action in context. In sum, this study provides a foundation for further research on the relationship between culture and economy at various levels of social organization in China, Asia and the world as we enter the twenty-first century.