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Oil and WaterBeing Han in Xinjiang$
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Tom Cliff

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226359939

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226360270.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 27 September 2021

Married to the Structure

Married to the Structure

(p.159) Six Married to the Structure
Oil and Water

Tom Cliff

University of Chicago Press

In Korla, young people’s marriage prospects and choices are influenced by their socio-economic status. Non-elite people blame corruption and the exclusivity of Xinjiang’s state enterprise-dominated industrial structure for their lack of social mobility. Attempting to guarantee their own social reproduction in an environment characterized by uncertainty, they seek socio-economic proximity to the state, its institutions, or its agents. The chapter argues that these aspirations underpin a society-wide “organized dependence” analogous to that of the socialist-era Chinese factory. Held together by nostalgia and residual expectation as much as by formal state structures, organized dependence is the essence of Korla’s micro-political economy. Elites see this “iron rice bowl mentality” as both cause and effect of Xinjiang’s “behindness,” an obstacle to reform. Yet the elite critique of others’ organized dependence leads to a self-referential critique of systematic embeddedness, demonstrating that elite individuals and powerful institutions “within the system” are also married to the structure. Thus trapped, both elite and non-elite people turn to pragmatism and hope: they pragmatically accept non-ideal certainty while attempting to sustain possibility, and thus hope. Hope is the psychological counterweight to their assumption that the formal and informal structures of their lives are immutable.

Keywords:   marriage, social mobility, corruption, industrial structure, uncertainty, political economy, reform, organized dependency, pragmatism, hope

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