Class in China: Stratification in a Classless Society

Class in China: Stratification in a Classless Society

Class in China: Stratification in a Classless Society

Class in China: Stratification in a Classless Society

Synopsis

"[T]he book is splendid. Wortzel combines his expertise in Sinology with his meticulous attention to epistemology and methodology in studying the class structure and stratification in Maoist China, accomplishing the rare feat of freeing himself from ideologicalbias and parochial ethnic subjectivity. . . . It is indeed refreshing to read Wortzel's realistic book." Journal of Third World Studies

Excerpt

This book began as a means to satisfy intellectual interest in the concept of class sparked by the events in Poland revolving around the Solidarity movement. The study was further stimulated by issues raised by the Socialist Democracy movement in China, especially by the arrest of Wang Xizhe in Guangzhou. The more I read on the subject, the more I began to question the viability of the Marxian concept of class as an ordering concept for stratification in contemporary socialist society, particularly with respect to China.

As a socialist state governed by a Marxist-Leninist party, the People's Republic of China (PRC) claims to have eliminated the antagonistic class relations that, according to the Marxist interpretation of social reality, exist under capitalism. Officially in the PRC there are classes, but they no longer have antagonistic interests. The state form is a dictatorship of the proleteriat that has as its primary stated goal the interests of the workers. The questions that occurred were not easily answered by a reading of the official statements concerning class made by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). If the antagonistic interests of classes were eliminated, why did members of the Socialist Democracy Movement claim that the Party had elevated itself to the status of a new ruling class? What other voices in China had sounded complaints about the equity of the distribution of wealth and political power under this dictatorship of the proletariat? How did one gain access to allocative power?

I suggested as a working hypothesis to guide the inquiry that the nature of political and economic power in China still has a class con-

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