Grassroots Philanthropy in China: Work, Ethics, and Social Change

Grassroots Philanthropy in China: Work, Ethics, and Social Change
Jiazhi Fengjiang

Summary

In the past decade, various forms of philanthropy have become increasingly common in China. Primarily driven by ordinary citizens, some philanthropic activities have also been encouraged by the state. This thesis explores the emergence of “grassroots philanthropy” in a county of Zhejiang Province. Drawing upon eighteen months of fieldwork, the thesis explores––through the lens of grassroots philanthropy––the complexities, contingencies, and entangled developments to be found in the ethics, economies, and politics that characterize this contemporary political economic moment of China.

Much of the scholarly discussion of the global rise of volunteerism and philanthropy has contextualized it in the post-welfare neoliberal conditions in which the decline in the state provision of welfare and employment has led to an espousal of community-based private voluntarism as a critical means of providing social services and contributing to the shaping of ethical citizenship. In this context, philanthropy is seen as an end-point practice where ethical subjectivities are transformed; where value and values are realized; and where political, social, and ethical needs are fulfilled. In contrast, this thesis shows that the emergence of grassroots philanthropy in contemporary China is related to the ongoing and shifting valuation and evaluation of work’s worth in times of economic stagnation and restructuring as well as the recent expansion of the state welfare and poverty alleviation program. Rather than being an end-point practice, doing philanthropy becomes a temporary refuge for ordinary people with limited resources and power in the face of heightened anxiety about work and career. Instead of class, gender, religion, kinship, or political party, which are common organizing principles of other kinds of philanthropy and volunteerism in other times and places, these ordinary people’s shared imagination, aspirations, and anxiety are connecting them in new forms of social organizations in this philanthropy fever at this particular political economic moment.

Author

Jiazhi Fengjiang

Defended in

2019

PhD defended at

London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Anthropology

Specialisation

Social Sciences

Region

East Asia
China

Theme

Urban / Rural
Society
Other
Economy