The Chinese path to individualization

Br J Sociol. 2010 Sep;61(3):489-512. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-4446.2010.01323.x.


This article explores the rise of the individual and the consequential individualization of society which should be viewed as a reflexive part of China's state-sponsored quest for modernity. It traces the origin of the individualization process to the Maoist era, arguing that some collectivist programmes of social engineering and the socialist path of modernization under Maoism ironically resulted in a partial individualization of Chinese society. Examining profound social changes during the three decades of the post-Mao reforms, the article reveals a number of similarities with the individualization process in Western Europe but also demonstrates some important differences. In the last section, the theoretical implications of the Chinese case in light of Ulrich Beck's theory of individualization and second modernity are discussed.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • China
  • Employment
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Politics
  • Self Concept
  • Social Change* / history
  • Social Environment*
  • Socialism / history