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4. The Changing Meanings of Work in China

图书名称:Re-Drawing Boundaries: Work, Households, and Gender in China
图书作者:Barbara Entwisle and Gail E. Henderson    ISBN:
出版社:Berkeley: University of California Press    出版日期:2000年

Stevan Harrell

All revolutions, including the industrial one, are in a sense about the division of labor—and, of course, the way it relates to ownership of property. But the Chinese revolution, beginning with the self-strengtheners of the late nineteenth century, continuing through the significant failures of the Republic and the grander and more significant failures of collective socialism to the partial return to household-based labor in the present Reform era,[1] has been particularly concerned with issues of who should do what kinds of work. This chapter is about the ways in which arguments about labor—about what is work and what is not; about the proper kinds of work for men and women, educated and uneducated, rich and poor; and specifically about the differences between household-based and non-household based labor—have evolved as part of the broader discussions about what a post-collectivist Chinese society should be like. In doing so, this chapter draws on the materials and insights provided by the authors of the first three chapters in part 1, as well as on material discussed in later chapters.

As Rosenfeld points out in chapter 3, a useful heuristic device is to classify work done in any society in a two-by-two table, divided into work inside and outside the home, and work for compensation or not (see table 3.1 in chap. 3). This gives us four general types of work: remunerated labor outside the home (cell 1); remunerated labor inside the home (cell 2); unremunerated labor outside the home (cell 3) and unremunerated labor inside the home (cell 4). In any given societal arrangement of work roles, differential values will be placed on the four types of work, and different combinations of the four types will be considered appropriate for particular types of persons: men and women, old and young, noble and commoner, and so on.

A classification like Rosenfeld's is an appropriate starting point for trying to sort out how the proper relationships between work, gender, and household have been defined and contested through Chinese history, and particularly in the transition from the collective to the Reformera. I would make only one refinement, which Rosenfeld herself suggests: we should consider the division between household-based and non-household-based production to be at least as important as that between work that physically takes place inside the house or compound and work that takes place outside. We cannot, for reasons that will become apparent, shift our boundary frame all the way from the house to the household, but in order to understand the discussions about gender and household, we need to talk about the household organizational boundary most of the time, and consider the physical walls as the boundary only a little of the time. With this caveat in mind, let us examine how ideas about work have changed in relation to household and gender through the course of the Chinese revolution, and particularly in the transition from the collectivist to the Reform economy.

THE DIVISION OF L ABOR IN PREINDUSTRIAL CHINA

Our historical baseline is conveniently provided by Mann, who shows in chapter 1 that all through the imperial era of Chinese history, scholars and officials thought of the proper organization of labor as household-based. The ideal empire was an accumulation of households that were primarily self-sufficient, though they might be dependent on markets to one degree or another. The role of the laboring individual was that of a partner in a household division of labor, in which those tasks that could be done without leaving the ideational space of the household itself—its house, fields, gardens, and, for some urban families, also its commercial properties— could be performed by the household's female members. Those tasks that required extensive forays into the wider world—into markets, trading centers, or official circles—were restricted to the males. In this division of labor, then, the “inside,” or female domain, referred sometimes to the physical interior of a family's compound, whereas at other times and places it might also include farmwork. Agriculture stood somewhere between “inside” and “outside,” so it was predominantly but not exclusively male, while such things as transport and politics were supposed to be done by men only.

This preindustrial ideal division of labor would place just about all activities into the two bottom cells of Rosenfeld'sgrid:household-based, whether remunerated or not. Ideally all work was household-based, because all property ideally belonged to households. The only exceptions were corvée, military service, officialdom, and quite unusual (and exclusively male) practices of hiring out for labor (usually in transport) and exploiting resources as a collective band (usually in mining). As Ebrey (1984) has shown, many household moralists thought it was perfectly acceptable to try to dodge corvée or military service, and long-term hired labor and mining partnerships stood conceptually on the lowest rungs of the social ladder, outside the four honorable occupations of scholar, farmer, artisan, and merchant. Thus most remunerated activities outside the household lay outside the normal division of labor. There were a few exalted bureaucrats and a lot of despised policemen, soldiers, and coolies who worked outside of the nexus of household ownership and management of resources. But certainly over 90 percent of the population worked in family enterprises of one sort or another.

Within the family enterprise, the distinction between work for direct compensation and not for direct compensation (between cell 2 and cell 4) was really not very clear. Fieldwork was mostly done by men, though how exclusively male it was depended on the region of the country and the season of the year; women in the south tended to go into the fields more than their northern sisters, and where strictures were relaxed, they were of course most often relaxed at planting or harvest time. Mostly male fieldwork combined with mostly female gardening and animal husbandry and exclusively female cooking, cleaning, and sewing to produce livelihood. One side could not exist without the other, as long as people needed to eat as well as have some place to live and someone to prepare the food. Quantitative analysis might have yielded some figures about whether men's or women's labor products were more or less likely to be exchanged rather than consumed directly, but my hunch is that this, too, varied according to the region. Men might have grown only grain exclusively for household consumption, or they might have also grown vegetables or tobacco or cotton for sale; women might have made cloth either to wear or to sell; they might have either cooked or sold the eggs from the family's chickens or the meat from its slaughtered pigs.

As Mann points out, there was one word, lao, that covered every kind of activity in this household-based production system, from the mind work of the scholar to the field labor of the ordinary male householder to the inside labor performed by women. Semantic distinctions of course were made, but there was no kind of productive activity that could not be accommodated under the general term lao.

CHANGES THAT CAME WITH EARLY INDUSTRIALIZATION

One of the most important changes that comprise the historical transition from agrarian to industrial societies is the transition from an economy in which almost everyone lives off of family property to one in which almost everyone lives off of a salary earned in a non-family-based enterprise. When industry and large-scale wage labor came to China's large cities in the beginning of the twentieth century, China was faced for the first time with the prospect of a system in which all four cells of Rosenfeld's table were possible and present. China thus needed new rules to guide the new division of labor—who should work in non-household-based enterprises, who should continue to work in the household, how should compensation be structured for different kinds of work, and what should be the prestige value of one kind of work relative to another?

It was conceptually rather easy to create new rules for male labor outside the household context. After all, even though hired labor was not part of the ideal model set forth in Mann's chapter, there were in fact always a fairly sizable minority of males who worked for wages. For women, the problem was somewhat more difficult. Of course there had always been women who worked for wages as servants (Pruitt 1967) or, among the poorest classes, as transport workers, tea pickers, and so on. But women working outside the household context ran into a double ideological barrier: not only were they, like their menfolk, violating the ideal of the household as a self-sufficient productive unit; they were also violating traditional norms of chastity and family honor that placed women inside the house as well as inside the household. Whereas men who worked for wages had the stigma of being poor, women who worked for wages had the added stigma of being immoral. Hershatter (1986) describes the reluctance of Tianjin families to send their daughters to work in the cotton mills at the beginning of the twentieth century because of the possibility of this stigma.

There were compromises to be made, however, as in so many countries in the early stages of industrialization (D. Wolf 1992; Ong 1987). One of the most important ones was allowing young, unmarried women to take lowwage manufacturing jobs (primarily in textiles) where they could earn supplemental income for their households and do so in a cloistered dormitory atmosphere where their chastity was somewhat less likely to be compromised than if they had been allowed to live on their own or if they had only worked 60 or 70 hours per week instead of the somewhat longer week they actually worked.

Still, by the end of the Republican era in China, the overwhelming majority of the population (probably nearly 90 percent) was still rural (Emerson 1971, 188), and most rural people were household-based farmers— either owners or tenants. Even in the largest and most modern city of Shanghai, in 1957, immediately before the large-scale socialist transformation, the urban work force was reported to consist of over 40 percent in self employment or family-operated businesses, and about 60 percent in wage labor or salaried jobs (Howe 1971, 220). The trend toward wage employment was thus on its way by the time of the founding of the People's Republic, but was by no means complete even in Shanghai, and certainly less advanced elsewhere. The greatest changes in the division of labor still lay ahead in 1949.

THE SOCIALIST REVOLUTION

The Communists set out to change the division of labor fundamentally by making two kinds of changes. Production was to be moved out of the household into the public sphere, and all adults, male or female, were to take part in this public-sphere production. This was accomplished in somewhat different ways in the cities and in the rural areas.

In urban China, household-based production was effectively abolished. Family-owned businesses were confiscated, nationalized, or absorbed into collective enterprises, and everyone with a paid job (which, after 1958, was everyone who was not a child, a student, a disabled person, a pensioner, or an illegal migrant), became part of a state or collective work unit, or danwei. These work units not only paid almost all wages in urban China during this time; they also controlled access to many kinds of services that could not be purchased with cash, such as housing, medical care, and schooling (Walder 1986). In addition, women as well as men were expected to engage in wage labor during this time, so that there was no longer, in the ideology at least, a difference between the woman as the “inside” worker and the man as the “outside” worker. Both worked outside for wages—cell 1 of Rosenfeld's table. Cell 4, unremunerated household-based work, however, seems to have remained primarily the province of women, giving them a kind of twoshift existence (Hochschild 1989) similar to those in other industrial countries. In many cases this also kept women from rising to higher-paid or more responsible positions in their work units, because everybody knew they had to cook, clean, and take care of children. Work in cell 3, unremunerated activities outside the household, also became very important at this time, as people were required to engage in political meetings, neighborhood committees, and intermittently, in political campaigns.

Paradoxically, it was cell 2, household-based work to produce exchange value, that practically disappeared in urban China during the collectivist era. This had been the mainstay of the petty capitalist class that had been so important in the development of Chinese urban life for the previous thousand years and had also provided an important engine for China's early industrialization (Gates 1996). Now it was not petit bourgeois but just plain bourgeois to engage in any kind of family business, be it in manufacturing or sales, and commercial sales were taken over by large state stores and their smaller outlets.

The legitimacy of wage labor in state and collective enterprises was symbolized by the issuance of a gongzuo zheng, or work permit, to every worker or retired worker. This served as a personal identification card until universal shenfen zheng, or identity cards, were introduced in the late 1980s. The little red benzi (booklet), as it was unofficially called, served as the passport to all kinds of social services and even to such life necessities as the ration coupons that were necessary from the late 1950s to the 1970s to buy grain, cotton, and a host of other commodities. Working for wages in a state or collective enterprise, bureau, or educational or service institution was thus the basis not only of income but also of urban citizenship in collectivist China.

The household, of course, continued to exist in the collectivist era, and was in fact the basis for registration of the urban population (Cheng and Selden 1994). In addition, many people saw the family during this time as a “haven in a heartless world” (Lasch 1979), a place where one could retreat at least temporarily from the rigors of the politics that perfused life in public places, including workplaces. So the household in collectivist urban China stood in a paradoxical position. It was no longer the site of production or exchange activities, and its members depended on their work connections not only for income but for legitimate status as citizens. But at the same time, the state attempted to use the household as the lowest level of social control in the collectivist system: without an urban household registration, one could not obtain legitimate work, and without work or officially approved retired status, one could not obtain the ration coupons that gave access to life's material necessities. The household thus changed from a place of independent production and the organization of livelihood to a space for the local implementation of state control. This is perhaps best indicated by the fact that household-based work—the bottom half of Rosenfeld's grid—was no longer allowed (cell 2) or no longer respected (cell 4). That is, housekeeping was still necessary but was not considered enough to earn a woman full citizenship; for this she had to have paid, outside work, or gongzuo.

The household economy and division of labor fared somewhat differently in the rural socialist transformation, in which socialism was implemented through the development of collectivized agriculture. This began with the formation of mutual-aid teams in the early 1950s and proceeded to full-scale collectivization across most of the country in 1956 and the formation of people's communes in 1958. For the first time in Chinese history, agricultural production was not centered around the household.[2] Instead, agricultural workers were organized into production teams, consisting of 20–40 households each, and these teams worked their allocated land collectively, with tasks assigned to individual workers or teams of workers every day or every few days (Huang Shu-min 1989, 66–67; Siu 1989, 229–31). Individual workers were awarded “work points” (gong fen) for their labor contribution.

During the heady days of the summer of 1958, China proclaimed to a skeptical world (with no one more skeptical than N. S. Khrushchev) that it had skipped the intermediate stage of socialism and leapt directly forward into communism; all the activities that otherwise would be distributed among all four cells of the table were moved out of the household, and cooking, child care, and in a few places even residential arrangements were turned over to the collective, the better to liberate women's labor for production. This did not last long. Flaws in the incentive structure and the planning process led to possibly the largest famine in world history two years later (Banister 1987, 85). However, the lasting legacy of these fail eutopianre forms was the presence of women in the fields, everywhere and at all seasons. As in the urban sector, women's compensation tended to be less than that of men (M. Wolf 1985, 97), because of the tacit recognition (once the extreme collectivism of the Great Leap had faded) that they would still be doing the uncompensated household-based labor of cooking, cleaning, and feeding the pigs and chickens. Their participation in labor for compensation was simply less than that of the men, not because they labored less, but because some of their labor was defined out of the sphere of work for compensation.

The greatest paradox of collective agriculture, however, was that it was in one sense still household-based. The work points that were assigned on the basis of each household member's work were in fact allocated not to the individuals themselves, but to the households to which they belonged, and the harvest was shared out each fall according to the number of work points accumulated by the household as a whole. And since, in contrast to the urban situation, members of production teams lived and worked side by side, the production team was in the end a collection of households, not a danwei. The distinction was made clear in the contrast between the two kinds of household registration—nongcun hukou, or farm-village registration, and chengshi hukou, or urban registration.[3]

It was very difficult to move from village to urban household registration because there was an implicit hierarchy. Not only were the farmers poorer and less educated on the whole, but in the system there was a built-in bias against farmers, despite all the ideological ballyhoo about going to the countryside to emulate the poor-and lower-middle peasants (Bernstein 1977). This bias was at least partially because the farmers were not entirely modern or socialist—that is, their work was, in effect, not yet wholly included in cell 1 of Rosenfeld's table (remunerated work outside the household). Farmers did not gongzuo —they did not work at paid jobs in state units. Their economy still bore the stigma of production that was partly household based. Even though their economy was socialist in the sense that the means of production were collectively owned, the fruits of labor were distributed to the household, and in other areas, such as support for education and for the elderly and disabled, farm families had to depend on their own resources. They had labor, laodong, and this was ideologically admirable, but they did not have wage jobs, gongzuo. This compounded with their poverty and ignorance to make them literally second-class citizens, and the household registration system kept them so. An occasional son or daughter of a farm family could obtain gongzuo by becoming a cadre, technician, or teacher, but according to division-of-labor criteria, the farm economy still belonged in the premodern era.

The socialist era thus produced a series of truly revolutionary changes in the division of labor. For one, the same criteria were applied to women's labor as to men's: if it was pursued outside a household-based context and produced social exchange value, it was compensated and valued. If it either was done in the home or did not produce exchange value, it was uncompensated and devalued. This kind of work (cell 4) had to be done anyway and, despite a few desultory campaigns to the contrary that were later discredited by linking them with the hated Jiang Qing, Mao's widow, everyone assumed that women would do it. This meant that women could rarely come up to the same standard of compensation or prestige in their work as men did, whether in a research institution or on an ordinary agricultural production team. In other words, China moved from a vision of a gendered division of labor, where some tasks were appropriate for women and others for men, to ideological denial of the gendered division of labor. Men and women were expected to do the same things, but women were largely incapable of doing them as well because they still had to do those things formerly defined as women's work but now not defined as anything in particular. Instead of men and women each having their own spheres, they now operated in the same sphere, but with women at a disadvantage.

The other revolutionary change was the radical devaluation and virtual elimination of work categorized on the bottom row of Rosenfeld's table, that is, household-based production. This change was only possible if the shift in the parameters of the gender division of labor occurred at the same time, since taking women out of their former role in household production would give them no socially useful role at all unless they also began doing non-household-based work for compensation.

DILEMMAS OF THE REFORM ERA

All this has been reconsidered, and to an extent repealed, during the Reform era. Collective agriculture was the first to go, with the land redistributed to households, in usufruct if not in fee simple, by the early 1980s. Once again, for a short time at least, most inhabitants of rural China were engaging in household-based agriculture. But the division of labor now is not what it was before the great socialist experiments. For one thing, women have not retreated to an “inside” existence, but have remained full-scale agricultural workers in the new family enterprises. For another, rural China did not remain agricultural. The township and village enterprises (xiangcun qiye) that were a small part of the rural scene during socialism now grew exponentially (Putterman 1995), so that by the early 1990s only about half the rural population was engaged in agriculture as a primary occupation (State Statistical Bureau 1995, 83–88). Moreover, the trends of the economy's retreat to the household level and development of local industries have combined, so there are now a large number of small-and mediumsized enterprises in rural China that are family owned and operated. Finally, the household registration system was allowed to loosen greatly, so that it is now possible for migrants from rural areas, such as those described by Zhang (chap. 10), to become a significant source of urban labor and rural remittance income (see also chaps. 11 and 12). Migrant labor seems to have its male (construction) and female (service and manufacturing) components, but this is a division of labor within cell 1 (remunerated labor outside the household), not a division between “inside” and “outside.”

The cities have changed as much, if not more. Perhaps the most striking thing superficially is the profusion of family-owned stores and restaurants that now line the streets of every major and minor city in China. A large proportion—thoughs till aminority— of labor for exchange value is once again based in the household, and cell 2 (income-generating activities within the household) is once again a prominent sort of labor. Aside from this, there has been a rethinking of the gender division of labor. The activities of cell 4 (housework, child care) continue to be predominantly female, but there is a growing sentiment that this is proper and ought to be recognized as such, that women do not really belong in public life. Women's involvement in the workplace is no longer an aspect of their liberation, as it was considered under socialism, but is a response to household economic needs. Thus we see in Zhang's chapter that among the wealthiest families of the Zhejiang inmigrant community in Beijing, women are once again secluded, if not behind the physical walls of the house, at least behind the conceptual walls of the household, reduced to an existence of mahjong, shopping, and ladies' lunches. Most women, of course, continue to work as a matter of necessity or personal fulfillment or both, but it is no longer assumed; traditional ideas about the gender division of labor, though ripped out of their earlier context, can be used to justify not working, and working for less compensation.

Ideas about household-based enterprise and about the gender division of labor are now in great flux. This is reflected in chapter 2, where Henderson, Entwisle, Li, and associates report on their ethno-semantic attempt to determine what people think of as work in two county towns and two nearby villages in Hubei province in the 1990s. In the socialist era, it was easy to define what was gongzuo: it was something that gave you a benzi, which only came when you worked for wages, and wage work was always, of course, outside the household. Uncompensated housework did not count; in fact it did not count to the extent that women could not get away with doing only that work unless they were retired. Farm work did not count either. It was too tied to the village, the household's livelihood, the necessities of a rural existence, where people did not know how much they would earn in a given year until the harvest came in. Farm families could dream of their sons or daughters going out to gongzuo; it meant no longer being a “peasant,” a nongmin (Cohen 1994) and becoming something more prestigious.

But now these distinctions are breaking down. People clearly do different kinds of work (as reflected in the stories of the Feng family that Henderson, Entwisle, Li, and associates told to their focus groups), and they do them to different extents and for different employers, including their own households. There is no longer a clear line between gongzuo and householdbased work; both can bring in money. And there is no longer a clear line between gongzuo and farmwork, especially since farmwork is increasingly commercialized. We could say that there are continua from the ideal types of salaried work or large-scale entrepreneurship on one end, to uncompensated housework on the other end of one scale or subsistence farming on the other end of another scale, but there are no clear divisions. No wonder there is disagreement in the 1990s over what constitutes gongzuo.

Whether or not a new consensus will evolve is unclear. Reform-era China has yet to reach agreement on the rules of enterprise, the division of labor, the nature of gender, or the obligations owed to the household or the family descent line. Socialism imposed a consensus, but it was quickly broken when the socialist economy was dispersed. My own guess is that China will go the way of the United States, where these issues remain in the public arena as points of contention between people with different political, economic, and moral views. Eventually, the term gongzuo may revert to something like its presocialist meaning of any kind of labor or profession. But I doubt this will result in general agreement over who should work where, for whom, or how.




NOTES

1. I use the capitalized term “Reform” or “Reforms” to refer to the specific policies known in Chinese as gaige kaifang, implemented in 1979, and to the era in which these policy changes have been carried out.

2. There had been other attempts by central governments to deprive households of property rights in land, notably the “equal field” system of the early Tang dynasty (Elvin 1973, 59–61). But as far as we can reconstruct the way in which this system actually worked, communal property was still allocated to households, who farmed it and paid a portion of the crop to the local treasury.

3. In small towns in southern Sichuan Province where I have conducted research, the common term is actually danwei hukou (work-unit household regisration).

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