This book analyses modernity and tradition in China today and how they combine in striking ways in the Chinese school. Paul Willis - the leading ethnographer and author of Learning to Labour - shows how China has undergone an internal migration not only of masses of workers but also of a mental and ideological kind to new cultural landscapes of meaning, which include worship of the glorified city, devotion to consumerism, and fixation upon the smartphone and the internet.
Massive educational expansion has been a precondition for explosive economic growth and technical development, but at the same time the school provides a cultural stage for personal and collective experience. In its closed walls and the inescapability of its 'scores', an astonishing drama plays out between the new and the old, with a tapestry of intricate human meanings woven of small tragedies and triumphs, secret promises and felt betrayals, helping to produce not only exam results but cultural orientations and occupational destinies.
By exploring the cultural dimension of everyday experience as it is lived out in the school, this book sheds new light on the enormous transformations that have swept through China and created the kind of society that it is today: a society that is obsessed with the future and at the same time structured by and in continuous dialogue with its past.
Country of Publication:
05 February 2020
Professional and scholarly
Acknowledgements Preface Introduction and Theoretical Groundings The Chinese Scene Part I Modernity's Symbolic Order 1 Country Bad/City Good 2 Consuming Consumerism 3 The Internet as Deus Ex Machina Part II Education's Symbolic Order 4 The GaoKao Regime 5 The Three Arrows and Experience 6 'People is the Fish' Part III The View from the Saved 7 Passing GaoKao 8 Not Passing GaoKao Part IV Closing Portraits 9 'Chen' 10 'My Own Song' 11 A Country Trip Orders of Experience Notes
Paul Willis is an ethnographer and cultural theorist and a founding editor of Ethnography. He gained his PhD at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in 1972 where he remained as Senior Research Fellow for several years followed by professorships at Wolverhampton, Keele, Princeton and Beijing Normal Universities. His book Learning to Labour: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs is a classic of modern sociology and cultural studies.
Reviews for Being Modern in China: A Western Cultural Analysis of Modernity, Tradition and Schooling in China Today
'Written in a lucid and witty style, Paul Willis's book provides a uniquely penetrating lens to scrutinize the deeply held meanings and cultural nuances in China's relentless pursuit of modernity. A landmark contribution to China studies as well as the sociology of education.' Yunxiang Yan, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles, and author of The Individualization of Chinese Society 'Paul Willis is a wonderful guide in surveying China's jarring juxtapositions. His analysis of the ideological imbrication of communism, consumerism and Confucianism, and his close attention to the feelings of shame, stress and guilt experienced by the losers of China's new rat race, are particularly insightful.' Shehzad Nadeem, City University of New York