Mette Halskov Hansen & Rune Svarverud (eds)
In spite of the intense preoccupation with individual and self in modern Western thought, the social sciences have tended to focus on groups and collectives and downplay (even disregard) the individual. This implicit view has also coloured the study of social life in China where both Confucian ethics and Communist policies have shaped collective structures with little room for individual agency and choice. What is actually happening, however, is a growing individualization of China – not only changing perceptions of the individual but also rising expectations for individual freedom, choice and individuality. The individual has also become a basic social category in China, and a development has begun that permeates all areas of social, economic and political life. How this process evolves in a state and society lacking two of the defining characteristics of European individualization – a culturally embedded democracy and a welfare system – is one of the questions
that the volume explores.