Settling Accounts: The Intergenerational Contract in an Age of Reform

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:
Settling Accounts: The Intergenerational Contract in an Age of Reform

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One of the major problems facing people in any society is how to act while still vigorous and capable so as to ensure support and care in old age. While the means used to achieve these goals are many and diverse, in essence they generally involve both economic and social strategies. In particular, older people, by providing economic and other supports to the young (and middle-aged), hope thereby to be laying the foundation for their own support in later life. Social scientists have analyzed this intergenerational dynamic extensively in terms of exchange theory or reciprocity; in this chapter, the concept of an “intergenerational contract” is used to highlight the binding nature of such exchanges. Both the constitution and government of China have made abundantly clear that care of the aged in China is primarily a family responsibility, an unavoidable part of a contract between the generations.

Keywords: social strategies; exchange theory; reciprocity; intergenerational contract; constitution; government; China; family

Chapter.  12547 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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