Studies in Chinese Society

Studies in Chinese Society

Studies in Chinese Society

Studies in Chinese Society

Excerpt

The papers presented here derive from conferences sponsored by the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies between 1966 and 1973, and were first published in the seven- volume series Studies in Chinese Society (Stanford University Press, 1970-77). The present selection is intended to serve the needs of students in courses taught by anthropologists, sociologists, and social historians. It reflects not only my judgment but that of a dozen colleagues currently teaching courses on China in the United States and Great Britain.

The first paper, by G. William Skinner, is included despite its difficulty because it presents a unique and important perspective on Chinese society. Chinese society was traditionally treated as either a largely undifferentiated whole or a loose conglomeration of independent villages. Skinner showed that it was instead made up of a hierarchy of cellular structures shaped by the exigencies of topography, distance, and population density. At the bottom of the hierarchy is the standard marketing community, consisting of a small town and 15-20 satellite villages; at the top, the great metropolis; and between these extremes, six or seven intermediate classes of cities ranging from relatively small and simple to relatively large and complex.

In a seminal series of articles published in 1964-65, Skinner discussed the implications of his model for the study of Chinese culture, arguing that the standard marketing community was the culture-bearing unit in the traditional society, largely because the great majority of all peasants married within their standard marketing area. In the paper reproduced here he extends his analysis to include the relationship between the . . .

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