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Chinese Families in the Post-Mao Era$
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Deborah Davis and Stevan Harrell

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780520077973

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520077973.001.0001

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Settling Accounts: The Intergenerational Contract in an Age of Reform

Settling Accounts: The Intergenerational Contract in an Age of Reform

(p.307) Twelve Settling Accounts: The Intergenerational Contract in an Age of Reform
Chinese Families in the Post-Mao Era

Deborah Davis

Stevan Harrell

University of California Press

One of the major problems facing people in any society is how to act while still vigorous and capable so as to ensure support and care in old age. While the means used to achieve these goals are many and diverse, in essence they generally involve both economic and social strategies. In particular, older people, by providing economic and other supports to the young (and middle-aged), hope thereby to be laying the foundation for their own support in later life. Social scientists have analyzed this intergenerational dynamic extensively in terms of exchange theory or reciprocity; in this chapter, the concept of an “intergenerational contract” is used to highlight the binding nature of such exchanges. Both the constitution and government of China have made abundantly clear that care of the aged in China is primarily a family responsibility, an unavoidable part of a contract between the generations.

Keywords:   social strategies, exchange theory, reciprocity, intergenerational contract, constitution, government, China, family

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