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Rural China’s Economy Explored in SLU Professor’s New Book

CANTON – A book by a St. Lawrence University sociology professor focuses on the social and economic changes taking place in parts of rural China.

Community Capitalism in China: The State, the Market, and Collectivism, written by Assistant Professor of Sociology Xiaoshuo Hou, was recently published by Cambridge University Press.

“The book is based on my extended fieldwork in China and captures how members in three villages – Nanjie, Huaxi and Shangyuan – strive to gain both group solidarity and economic prosperity in the midst of unprecedented social change,” Hou said. “It is a book about those at the most grassroots level in rural China who are experiencing the dual transformation from an agrarian society to a more industrialized society and from a planned economy to a more market-oriented economy.”

Hou said the protagonists of the stories are neither successful peasants-turned-private-entrepreneurs nor migrant workers or street vendors; they are members of industrialized villages with collectively owned enterprises. “They pool resources together – sometimes land and other times even labor, cash and social networks – to support those enterprises, and at the same time receive dividends as shareholders. As a result, the collectively owned enterprises give the villagers a base for competing in the market and simultaneously provide them with a safety net that has gradually been eroded by the market and evaded by the state.”

The publisher says, “This book proposes to end the dichotomous view of the state and the market, and capitalism and communism, by examining the local institutional innovation in three villages in China and presents community capitalism as an alternative to the neoliberal model of development. … This book demonstrates the embeddedness of the market in community, showing how social relations, group solidarity, power, honor and other values play an important role in these villages' social and economic organization.”

Hou has been teaching at St. Lawrence since 2009. She received her bachelor’s degree from Nanjing University in China and her Ph.D. in sociology from Boston University. Her research and teaching interests include the sociology of development, economic sociology, sociology of organizations, and the socioeconomic transformations in China. She has been published in The Journal of Asian Studies, Theory and Society, Contemporary Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies, and Theory, Culture & Society.

A recipient of St. Lawrence’s William B. Bradbury, Jr. Faculty Award and Faculty Research Fellowship Award, she is currently doing fieldwork in China for her new research project on green technology innovation. She is also co-editing the five-volume Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism.

Read more about the book on the Cambridge University Press site.