Marginalization and Social Welfare in China

By Linda Wong | Go to book overview

8

Utilitarian Chinese familism

INTRODUCTION

In industrial societies, large-scale collective intervention in social welfare was linked to the decline of the family as a result of modernization (Wilensky and Lebeaux 1965). Hence the need arose for professional services to support, ameliorate and substitute for the loss of family functions (Kahn 1979). The family in Asian cultures is a particularly important institution (Dixon and Kim 1985). None of the East Asian countries have become welfare states. Despite extensive Westernization, strong familism prevails, allowing governments to hail it as a superior form of old-age protection and a key ingredient in the making of the East Asian economic miracle.

Chinese communist leaders are strong adherents to the ethic of self-reliance and family responsibility (Dixon 1981). Welfare residualism was linked to official disapproval of dependency, and preference for fast mobilization strategies as well as resource constraints. The end result has been a decentralized approach to welfare, with work and social organizations given the job of providing for their members alongside their primary economic or professional function. When one examines the historical legacy, it is apparent that such practices had deep roots in the past. In particular, the group insurance principle enshrined in Chinese familism has functioned as the de facto welfare institution.

This chapter dissects the relationship between the family and welfare policy after 1949. The conscious promotion of utilitarian familism has been one of the major building blocks of China's welfare system. The unspoken assumption is that the ubiquity of family care makes direct welfare and relief unnecessary. Four related themes will be analysed below. To begin with, I shall examine the communist view of Chinese familism. Despite its many negative aspects, the overall verdict was that traditions could be made to work for the benefit of individuals and society. Thus, immediately after seizing power, the Marriage Law (1950) was promulgated to create new forms of marriage relations. Next, I shall analyse the impact of state policies-production, distribution, social security and other services-on the family. From this review, there is overwhelming evidence that by and large state

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Marginalization and Social Welfare in China
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figure viii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xiv
  • 1 - Chinese Socialism and Social Welfare 1
  • 2 - The Culture of Welfare 24
  • 3 - Social Welfare in the First Three Decades 43
  • 4 - The New Welfare Challenge 62
  • 5 - Welfare for Veterans and Peasants 84
  • 6 - Urban Welfare and Mutual Aid 113
  • 7 - The Role of the State 137
  • 8 - Utilitarian Chinese Familism 158
  • 9 - The Collective Canopy 182
  • 10 - Conclusion 205
  • Bibliography 215
  • Index 237
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