Introduction: the Impact of Post-mao Reforms on Family Life

Deborah Davis and Stevan Harrell

in Chinese Families in the Post-Mao Era

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 1993 | ISBN: 9780520077973
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520913578 | DOI:
Introduction: the Impact of Post-mao Reforms on Family Life

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This chapter argues that the interaction between cultural preferences and economic forces may be partially predicted by Jack Goody's models of the evolution of the family. According to this model, extended-family ties and use of dowry and brideprice should weaken in the Maoist period but revive with the return of differences in social status within and among local communities after the Deng reform. It is possible that normative expectations rooted in sources independent of rational economic choices may prove decisive in an era when the party-state no longer intrudes as directly into cultural and religious life. One may find by the late 1980s that in areas where government authority has dramatically retreated, the dynamic of change for families in China may parallel that documented in John Caldwell's exploration of the demographic transition in western Africa, where family composition shifted in response to new ideologies rather than exclusively in response to new economic incentives and rationality.

Keywords: Jack Goody; models; evolution; family; dowry; brideprice; Maoist period; government; China; John Caldwell

Chapter.  9978 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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