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Chinese Visions of Family and State, 1915-1953

Chinese Visions of Family and State, 1915-1953

Susan L. Glosser
Foreword by Linda Kerber
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Chinese Visions of Family and State, 1915-1953
    Book Description:

    At the dawn of the twentieth century, China's sovereignty was fragile at best. In the face of international pressure and domestic upheaval, young urban radicals—desperate for reforms that would save their nation—clamored for change, championing Western-inspired family reform and promoting free marriage choice and economic and emotional independence. But what came to be known as the New Culture Movement had the unwitting effect of fostering totalitarianism. In this wide-reaching, engrossing book, Susan Glosser examines how the link between family order and national salvation affected state-building and explores its lasting consequences. Glosser effectively argues that the replacement of the authoritarian, patriarchal, extended family structure with an egalitarian, conjugal family was a way for the nation to preserve crucial elements of its traditional culture. Her comprehensive research shows that in the end, family reform paved the way for the Chinese Communist Party to establish a deeply intrusive state that undermined the legitimacy of individual rights.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92639-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Linda K. Kerber

    Whether we credit it to globalism or cosmopolitanism, the need to reach out of the archives of a single nation and to explore themes that are shared across cultural boundaries has invigorated much recent scholarship. Marxist historians led the way. Perhaps this was because Marxist theory offered a structure for explaining the historical relation of worker to capitalist that refused to see the differences between national histories as absolute. Practitioners of this sort of history thought in terms of structures that allowed for a shared and comparative history; the same theoretical apparatus could be employed whether the labor relations were...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Chronology
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  7. Introduction: Evolve or Perish
    (pp. 1-26)

    Confronted with foreign aggression and internal chaos, in 1915 China’s young urban intellectuals launched a vociferous attack on traditional Chinese culture. Their radical reevaluation of China’s political and cultural institutions, a reevaluation later known as the New Culture Movement, lasted eight years and addressed almost every aspect of Chinese society. Blaming traditional institutions for China’s perilous circumstances, these young radicals proposed a number of Western-inspired reforms. Of these, one of the most important was family reform. In place of arranged marriage and patriarchal control, they promoted free marriage choice, companionate marriage, and economic and emotional independence from the family. In...

  8. CHAPTER 1 Saving Self and Nation: The New Culture Movement’s Family-Reform Discourse
    (pp. 27-80)

    Historians of the New Culture Movement have typically focused on either the movement’s nationalism or its romantic individualism and portrayed participants’ interest in family reform as an outgrowth of one of these two elements. Chow Tse-tsung remarks that young radicals believed that “to have all individuals liberated from the old passive thinking and from the self-sufficing and paternalistic family and clan system based on an agricultural society would strengthen the nation.”¹ Roxane Witke argues that New Culture radicals attacked the traditional family because “while individualism might be possible to some degree within a loosened form of the old system, it...

  9. CHAPTER 2 Making the National Family: The Statist Xiao Jiating
    (pp. 81-133)

    When the Nationalists came to power in 1927, they exploited the state-building possibilities ofxiao jiatingdiscourse by stressing nationalism and patriotic duty. Their version of family reform and its relation to the state differed in emphasis and direction from its New Culture predecessor. Whereas New Culture radicals had envisioned a state strengthened by the cumulative effects of individual freedom and productivity, the Nationalists made the state both the primary beneficiary and the central agent of reform. They rejected the individual as the agent of change and intended instead for the state to lead the way, remaking the individual and...

  10. CHAPTER 3 Marketing the Family: You Huaigao and the Entrepreneurial Xiao Jiating
    (pp. 134-166)

    As early as 1920, Shanghai’s education and business circles joined forces to address the question of marriage and family. Commercial presses published an ever-increasing number of books and pamphlets on love and marriage. Newspapers began to add supplemental sections on home and family. The Society for Daily Renewal of the Family (Jiating rixin hui), established in January 1920, dedicated itself to the “improvement of the family.” Its members, who described themselves as businessmen and educators, decided to first address family education and hygiene. Later they would tackle problems of family dynamics and organization. Members vowed to give up bad habits...

  11. CHAPTER 4 Love for Revolution: Xiao Jiating in the People’s Republic
    (pp. 167-196)

    Throughout this book I have examined the participants in the family-reform debate during the period in which they were best able to disseminate their visions of the ideal family. It is for this reason that I concentrate here on Chinese Communist Party marriage policies after the CCP came to power in 1949. Of course, the CCP had turned its attention to marriage issues long before 1950. Mao’s essay on Miss Chao, who killed herself rather than marry the man her parents had chosen for her, and his comments on women’s extra burden (the authority of the husband, in addition to...

  12. Conclusion: The Malleability of the Xiao Jiating Ideal
    (pp. 197-200)

    Family reformers believed that thexiao jiatingwas essential to China’s salvation. But just what didxiao jiatingmean? The New Culture radicals, the Nationalists, entrepreneurs, and the Communists all agreed on several fundamental and necessary criteria that distinguished thexiao jiatingfrom the joint family, orda jiazu. They advocated the individual’s right to marry the person of his or her choice and shared an interest in limiting the economic interdependence of family members; early reformers Yi Jiayue and Luo Dunwei urged complete financial independence. The Nationalists expected immediate family members to care for one another when necessary but...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 201-248)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-262)
  15. Glossary
    (pp. 263-266)
  16. Index
    (pp. 267-275)