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American Ethnologist

The crisis of masculinity: Class, gender, and kindly power in post-Mao China

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ABSTRACT

In this article, I examine how Chinese state enterprises sustain social stability in the wake of mass unemployment caused by privatization. At the same time that China, in its attempt to sustain stability, unmakes, or remakes, state workers into entrepreneurial subjects, it attempts to remake itself as a benevolent patriarchal government exercising kindly power. State enterprises translate labor unrest into a crisis of masculinity and the sustaining of stability into governing men and masculinity. For men, mass unemployment has meant the loss of virility associated with life-tenured employment, and this loss of livelihood and virility results in social instability, which is embodied in the unemployed male. Male workers then use the language of gender and family and translate it back into an expression of class antagonism.

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