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Aging in a Vanishing Village

Author: XuJing
Tutor: ZhangPeiGuo
School: Shanghai University
Course: Anthropology
Keywords: Village Change Aging Experience Risk Social Transformation Country Welfare
CLC: D669.6
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2013
Downloads: 574
Quote: 0
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Rapid population, economic and social transformations are now happening inChinese rural societies. With the accelerated urbanization process, the traditionalpeasant economy is gradually taken over by great social division of labor, and theoutflow of young labor has exacerbated the hollow and aging of rural population.The traditional rural ethics, mutual relationship and family structure have changed alot, which has put multiple effects on individual, family, society and even the wholecountry. The elderly in rural areas has become a topic problem of concern. Thispaper took a rural village in Shanghai as a field site. In the background ofurbanization, aging and hollow, this village has encountered the policy of new ruralconstruction, land acquisition of government, demolition and resettlement and aseries of internal and external changes, which make it become a typical case instudying the rural aging life transformation in the process of modernization. Thepaper will take personal, family, village, and the national factors as weft, and somestages of life cycle such as family separation, ceremony, medical treatment, nursing,social insurance, welfare as the warp, and then weave them together to discuss theaging experience and elderly life. The main logic of the article is, through describingthe "individualized" process of rural elderly life, to reflect how the aging risk in ruralsociety is redistributed and constructed in modern society.First topic of the paper is to discuss the definition of "aging". The rural elderlypersons are now facing a technical and institutional process of "individualization"and "standardization"."Old people" in the traditional folk culture is a holisticexperience, which has no unique standard, the coming of aging used to be a smoothtransition. A series of practices in rural life such as intergenerational relations, familystructure, and family relationship can become an important index to judge the agingprocess. But in modern society, the aging condition is more or less judged by thesalary, retirement and social security system based on biological process. All thisfactors have infiltrated into rural culture, making some rural life concepts more individualized and standardized, and has replaced the traditional description of"old". According to this article, under the penetration of technology and institutionsystems, the rural definition and experience on aging is constantly "individualized".Secondly, the distribution of rural aging risk is also a problem. Due to themodernization of traditional family structure and village community, the protectionfunction of rural family and the reciprocal system of village have been inevitablyweakened. Urbanization has caused the decline of family structure and villagecommunity, which is restructuring the identity of rural elderly person and theirfamily unity and village reciprocal system. The traditional patriarchal systemdominated by local gentry and rural elite used to set up the authority of elders, andalso provided charity relief for the homeless, which now is too difficult to return intoeffect. Although during the period of collectivization, community and villageworking team can assume an important role in the old people’s protection, but as thecommune disintegrated and the urbanization process accelerated, the"individualized" rural elderly has suffered a great risk in their old-age. Nowadays,national social security system and government pension services are intertwined witha folk level of family support and community relationship, which leads to a binarymodel of welfare, providing different levels of risk protection for theindividualized elderly in rural society.And lastly, through analyzing the state and government attitude and policychanges on rural elders’ security, welfare and caring affairs, we can further examineand explain the whole process and logic of the Chinese society. In the process ofrural social change over the past century, the rural elder have experienced throughthree periods: the first period is during the patriarchal system in late imperial country,in which the elder of family and rural gentlemen has great management power;second period is in the middle of last century, in which the society was under thetotalitarianism mode of collective welfare; the third period is in the modern society,in which administrative redistribution and commodity market are intertwined into a atomized rural society. With the rural tendency of "individualization" today, thefunction of the family and community for elderly security is inevitably degrading,the "individualized" elderly are more independent in life style and their propertydistribution, but at the same time, they are also facing more uncertainty and risk. Inthis context, more diversified and individual oriented social policy and public serviceshould inevitably come into being.

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