From Heaven to Earth: Images and Experiences of Development in China

By Elisabeth Croll | Go to book overview

Chapter 7

Aggregation

Labour, family and kin

One of the most interesting repercussions of rural reform has been interest in the peasant household, which has become the focus of attention after an interval of nearly thirty years of revolution during which it was very much shadowed by the commune, production brigade and production team. Much has been made of the new responsibilities, opportunities and demands on the peasant household, but of equal interest are their repercussions for its size, structure, and relations within and beyond the household and for family and kin. The household, or hu, is the basic unit of domestic organisation within the village, and is usually defined as the group of kin relations distinguished by a single kitchen, a common budget and normally, although not necessarily, co-residence. Members of peasant households usually use the term ‘household’ (hu) for the family members who are co-resident and ‘family’ (jia or jiating) for closely related members of different households. From the late 1970s the response of the peasant household to the new reforms has been very dependent on its pre-existing resource capacity and, in particular, the numbers and skills of its labourers.

The absence of any substantial inherited or accumulated capital from the period of collectivisation meant that initially the only means by which peasant households were able to establish new economic activities was through savings from incomes of family labourers. The correlation between income and labour resources was not a new characteristic, for even within the collective, the labour resources of a peasant household had been the single most important determinant of livelihood and welfare. 1 Then the peasant household relied not so much on the exploitation of family lands or estates but on the waged and domestic labour of its members to fulfil its obligations to the collective production unit, cultivate its private plot, raise livestock, undertake domestic sideline handicraft production and service family members. The performance of all these activities, be they collective, private or domestic, demanded the maximisation of family labour resources and, because the hiring of labour was prohibited by law, control over family labour underlay economic differentiation within villages. Thus the removal of constraints on family income generation

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From Heaven to Earth: Images and Experiences of Development in China
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Imaging Heaven 3
  • Part I - Reform: Household and Village 15
  • Chapter 2 - State Policies 17
  • Chapter 3 - Peasant Experiences 36
  • Part II - Readjustment: the Village 95
  • Chapter 4 - Resource Management 97
  • Chapter 5 - Information Networked 116
  • Chapter 6 - Income Generation 135
  • Part III - Readjustment: the Household 161
  • Chapter 7 - Aggregation 163
  • Chapter 8 - Continuity 181
  • Chapter 9 - Discontinuity 198
  • Conclusion 213
  • Chapter 10 - Living the Earth 215
  • Appendix 1 226
  • Appendix 2 292
  • Notes 299
  • Index 311
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