Consumption Plus Love: Inequality, Domestic Utopia, and China’s New Politics of the Future

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Modern China, 2020, 46 (1), pp. 49 - 78
Issue Date:
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© The Author(s) 2019. With hundreds of millions of rural migrant workers now dominating the labor market in China’s fastest growing regions, this group embodies that nation’s most intractable problems of inequality. Young, single, socially disenfranchised rural migrants, particularly men, reportedly experience widespread difficulty in finding a marriage partner, largely because they cannot afford to buy a home. The resulting potential social instability is of pressing concern to the Chinese Communist Party. How do discourses of governmentality reconcile/manage class inequality? How do they construct the future and encourage hope? What moral, cultural, and rhetorical resources does this ideology of the future draw on, and to what extent does it represent a rupture with China’s revolutionary—and traditional—past? Do China’s most disenfranchised socioeconomic groups buy into the “China Dream” rhetoric? This article addresses these questions through a series of “love stories” screened by China Central Television. It pinpoints a particular moment in China’s state capitalism when romantic love became a means of managing, if not solving, social inequality. It uncovers a new discursive blueprint for future state narratives of inequality and brings to light some new ways of restructuring the fantasy of the “good life.”.
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