In Search of Paradise
Middle-Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis
Published by: Cornell University Press
264 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 x 16.00 mm, 15 halftones, 1 map
- ISBN: 9780801475627
- Published: May 2010
A new revolution in homeownership and living has been sweeping the booming cities of China. This time the main actors on the social stage are not peasants, migrants, or working-class proletariats but middle-class professionals and entrepreneurs in search of a private paradise in a society now dominated by consumerism. No longer seeking happiness and fulfillment through collective sacrifice and socialist ideals, they hope to find material comfort and social distinction in newly constructed gated communities. This quest for the good life is profoundly transforming the physical and social landscapes of urban China.
Li Zhang, who is from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, turns a keen ethnographic eye on her hometown. She combines her analysis of larger political and social issues with fine-grained details about the profound spatial, cultural, and political effects of the shift in the way Chinese urban residents live their lives and think about themselves. In Search of Paradise is a deeply informed account of how the rise of private homeownership is reconfiguring urban space, class subjects, gender selfhood, and ways of life in the reform era.
New, seemingly individualistic lifestyles mark a dramatic move away from yearning for a social utopia under Maoist socialism. Yet the privatization of property and urban living have engendered a simultaneous movement of public engagement among homeowners as they confront the encroaching power of the developers. This double movement of privatized living and public sphere activism, Zhang finds, is a distinctive feature of the cultural politics of the middle classes in contemporary China. Theoretically sophisticated and highly accessible, Zhang's account will appeal not only to those interested in China but also to anyone interested in spatial politics, middle-class culture, and postsocialist governing in a globalizing world.
1. Farewell to Welfare Housing
2. Unlocking the Real Estate Machine
3. Emerging Landscapes of Living
4. Spatializing Class
5. Accumulation by Displacement
6. Recasting Self-Worth
7. Privatizing Community Governing and Its Limits
"China's rapid urbanisation process and an emerging real estate market have become an eye-catching phenomenon in academic research. It not only greatly transformed the landscape of Chinese cities, but greatly altered the way urban Chinese live and think about their private space, public space and their traditional communities....Overall, this book is easy to read. It can be used as a textbook for undergraduate or postgraduate students to understand the spatialisation of class. It can also provide rich information to academics seeking to understand how individuals, the state, corporations, homeowners and other social groups reposition themselves during housing regime change in China."~Yawei Chen, International Journal of Housing Policy
"This book is an excellent ethnography of urban middle-class living in the midst of rapid transformation in China's postsocialism. The validity of Zhang’s ethnography is enhanced by its frankness, her willingness to be honest about those with whom she mingled so closely in her hometown.... Especially given the difficulty in gaining access to the lives of middle-class people, who prefer the privacy of living in gated communities, this book is ethnography at its best. It will be of interest to scholars working in Chinese market transition, class and social stratification, state-society relations, and urban studies, as well as those who are interested in empirically-grounded social and cultural theories."~Seio Nakajima, Journal of Asian Studies