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Chapter 8 - Social Transformation and Cultural Reproduction: A Bourdieusian Analysis of Post-Reform China

from PART II: Case Studies Of The International Deployment Of Bourdieu's Thought

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 July 2017

Yang Yang
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge, UK
Xuanyang Gao
Affiliation:
Tong Ji University
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Summary

Introduction

Pierre Bourdieu successfully constructed his sociology by combining the Durkheimian tradition with new developments in anthropology, ethnography, culture studies and education in post- war France. The core of Bourdieu's writings concerns social space and reproduction: the relationship between the diff erent forms of capital and their relations with inequality and power are perpetuated and reproduced in and through various fields, for example, education. Also, such ongoing and successful reproduction imposes a sense of cultural legitimacy and a social definition of reality. Bourdieu's theoretical innovation contributed to a great extent to the establishment, as well as the development, of sociology as a discipline in the final quarter of the twentieth century. The intellectual nobility that his theory offers and that Bourdieu himself represents as a public intellectual is already clear and secure.

Along with the wide circulation of his theory, debates over ‘the specific validity of Bourdieu's concepts in diff erent socio- political situations’ have intensified, precisely as Derek Robbins proposes in the introduction to this volume, leading to the ultimate question: is Bourdieu's sociology Franco- centric or universal? This chapter intends to firstly refl ect Chinese scholars’ encounter with Bourdieu's work, and, more importantly, to consider this very question in a Chinese context – to see whether Bourdieu's theory can be applied to China, particularly to the post- reform era, starting from the initiation of the economic reform in 1978 and continuing to the present day. The chapter begins with a brief presentation of Bourdieu's sociological theorization. It outlines reproduction theory through the interrelationship between his three primary concepts, namely, capital, habitus and field. The second part provides an overview of the reception of Bourdieu's work in China. The third part argues that the rapid, vast and apparently crisis- ridden restructuring has led to the emergence of three ‘new’ social groups in today's Chinese society – the new middle class, the entrepreneurs and the political elite. The reform has left the country with a dynamic market economy but has also contributed to the creation of a lopsided system that is unable to address the new complexity.

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Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2016

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