Ritual Capital

A Proposed Concept from Case Studies of School Selection in China

in Asian Journal of Social Science
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This research focuses on the use of guanxi (Chinese personal connections) in everyday urban life. Although there is much research focused on guanxi, little is known about the specific tactics of developing and using guanxi in Chinese urban society. The study presented here aims to fill this gap. Data was drawn from two ethnographic studies of school place allocation in two Chinese cities during 2012 and 2013. The research finds that ritual is vital in all forms of la guanxi (instrumental guanxi practice) and that ritual exists at almost every stage of this process. The practice of ritual becomes an important way of using and developing one’s guanxi capital, and “instrumental li” is the shared value behind ritual practice in guanxi. Based on this finding, a new concept called “ritual capital” is proposed. This refers to a part of an individual’s social capital that is mainly established and maintained by the practice of proper ritual; namely, the ability to use ritual for resources or benefits.

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