Chaxugeju: The Differential Mode of Association - 中欧社会论坛 - China Europa Forum

Chaxugeju: The Differential Mode of Association

From the Soil. The foundations of Chinese Society (chapter 4)

Authors: Fei Xiaotong

Date: 1992

Published by Berkeley: University of California Press, pp.60-70

URL: dbell/Fei4&5.pdf

In this chapter, Fei Xiaotong addresses the problem of selfishness vis-à-vis each person’s service to, and responsability for, the public welfare, i.e., the problem of the line between the group and the individual. He claims that, in Western societies, individuals form organizations, whereby each organizations has its own boundaries defining who is part of the organization and who is not, and the relation of each individual to the organization is the same. All members in an organization are equivalent. He calls this an “organizational mode of association” (tuantigeju). In China, on the contrary, each individual is claimed to be surrounded by a series of concentric circles, produced by one’s own social influence. Each web of social relations has a self as its center. Each circle spreading out from the center becomes more distant and at the same time more insignificant. Everyone’s circles are interrelated, and one touches different circles at different times and places. On different occasions, one’s own social network comes into contact with someone else’s. He calls this mode of organization a “differential mode of association” (chaxugeju). A practical consequence of this difference in social networking is that, in the West, people struggle for their rights, while in China, people seek connections in higher places and do things for the sake of friendship. Another consequence is that, in China, private selfishness is justified by moving toward the state: both public officials and private persons use the same conception of the social order to define the context of their action. This is different from a Western society, in which public and private rights and obligations belong to a different ‘organization’ and are divided distinctly. A “differential mode of association” does not allow for individual rights to be an issue at all, and social morality makes sense only in terms of the personal connections.

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