Middle Class China

Middle Class China

Identity and Behaviour

CSC China Perspectives series

Edited by Minglu Chen and David S.G. Goodman

A general expectation has developed that China’s middle class will generate not only social but also political change. This expectation often overlooks the reality that there is no single Chinese middle class with a common identity or will to action. This timely volume examines the behaviour and identity of the different elements of China’s middle class – entrepreneurs, managers, and professionals – in order to understand their centrality to the wider processes of social and political change in China.

Chapter 4: White-collar workers: gender and class politics in an urban organization

Jieyu Liu

Subjects: asian studies, asian development, asian politics and policy, development studies, asian development, politics and public policy, asian politics


Feminist discussion on the relationship between gender and class originates in the early debate of the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism. Dual systems theory, one of the prominent frameworks of feminist discourse on this subject, argues that patriarchy and capitalism are related structures of domination that lead to the dual inequalities of gender and class for women (Hartmann, 1979; Walby, 1986, 1990; Delphy and Leonard, 1992). It has been crucial in emphasizing a structural, economic and historical context for the analysis of gender inequalities. However, the theory is criticized for its assumption that patriarchy and capitalism are independent structures. Instead, it has been argued that class and gender relations should be analysed and considered as mutually constitutive concepts (Pollert, 1996; Acker, 2000, 2006). At the specific organizational level, one of the methods used to achieve the analysis of mutually constitutive class and gender relations is grounded in a processual approach. This approach is closely associated with the way in which concepts of gender and class are defined. Gender is defined ‘as a complex and contradictory system of social relations and culture that includes expectations, ideology, social and economic, political structures, and micro-level statuses, identities and practices’ (Martin, 2001, p. 590). The processual approach is crucial to exploring the production and reproduction of gender relations within specific work organizations (Munro, 2001). While class is widely regarded as a difficult concept to define (see Crompton, 2010), in the organizational setting it may be viewed as the ‘enduring and systematic differences in access to and control over resources’ (Acker, 2006, p. 444).

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