Post-Socialist Aspirations in a Neo-Danwei

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    The socialist-era danwei lives on in contemporary, ever-reforming China. Ironically, the processes of reform helped to enable the perpetuation of the traditional danwei's paternalistic practices by concentrating monopoly power in selected, partially market-listed, centrally owned enterprise groups. The Tarim Oilfield Company is an outstanding example of this balancing act between socialist and market structures-a neo-danwei. This article maps these structures using detailed ethnographic data gathered over two years working in the company. Multiple subjective viewpoints show that distinctions between different categories of employee are crucial to maintaining the danwei in the midst of marketization. Like the socialist-era danwei, the oil company produces dependency and constrains social mobility. Yet, amidst glorification of open competition and individual achievement, the desire to enter a danwei is as strong as ever. The certainty of danwei life is highly valued; stability becomes a status symbol.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)132-157
    JournalThe China Journal
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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