The role of the peasant in society has been fundamental throughout China's history, posing difficult, much-debated questions for Chinese modernity. Today, as China becomes an economic superpower, the issue continues to loom large. Can the peasantry be integrated into a new Chinese capitalism, or will it form an excluded and marginalized class? Alexander F. Day's highly original appraisal explores the role of the peasantry throughout Chinese history and its importance within the development of post-socialist-era politics. Examining the various ways in which the peasant is historicized, Day shows how different perceptions of the rural lie at the heart of the divergence of contemporary political stances and of new forms of social and political activism in China. Indispensable reading for all those wishing to understand Chinese history and politics, The Peasant in Postsocialist China is a new point of departure in the debate as to the nature of tomorrow's China.
Alexander F. Day is Assistant Professor of History at Occidental College. He grew up in Maine and New Zealand and has spent over five years in Asia, mostly in China. Professor Day's research focus is on the rural-urban relationship in China, focusing on the late-imperial period through the twentieth century; his second teaching field is world history. He is a member of the American Historical Association and the Association for Asian Studies.
Introduction: peasants, history, and politics; 1. The peasantry and social stagnation: the roots of the reform-era liberal narrative; 2. From peasant to citizen: liberal narratives on peasant dependency; 3. Capitalism and the peasant: new left narratives; 4. 'Deconstructing modernization': Wen Tiejun and 'Sannong wenti'; 5. Into the soil: ethnographies of social disintegration; 6. New rural reconstruction and the attempt to organize the peasantry; Conclusion; Glossary; Bibliography; Index.