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The Rural ModernReconstructing the Self and State in Republican China$
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Kate Merkel-Hess

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226383279

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226383309.001.0001

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Organizing the Village

Organizing the Village

(p.80) 3 Organizing the Village
The Rural Modern

Kate Merkel-Hess

University of Chicago Press

Like reformers in many other places around the world, early twentieth century Chinese intellectuals believed rural China was disorganized, a state of being that was unnatural and the direct result of violent incorporation into the global economy. Focusing on the notion that peasants lacked “organization” and should be encouraged to form group associations, Chinese reformers emphasized “social education” via both traditional and new village institutions, like teahouses, agricultural cooperatives, and opera troupes. Rural people, however, had their own ideas about what kinds of reform were useful or acceptable and they embraced some efforts in some places and rejected others, setting the stage for tensions between reformers and reformed that in part explain the contraction of excitement over rural reconstruction in the late 1930s. Moreover, notions of rural organization were easily adapted by the government and authoritarian regional leaders to their own ends of using rural social organization to extend government’s reach into the villages.

Keywords:   social organization, cooperatives, theater reform, Chinese opera, cultural reform

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