The Peasant in Postsocialist China: History, Politics and Capitalism, Cambridge University Press, 2013.

‘Rural China, the source of the Chinese Revolution, has suffered marginalization, exploitation, and plunder under developmentalist reform policies since the 1990s, when the PRC leadership decisively embarked on a path of incorporation in global capitalism. In this well-researched and engaged study, Alexander F. Day critically analyzes the ideological debates occasioned by the ‘agrarian question’, and traces efforts by activists of various political stripes to resolve it. The ‘underside’ of the phenomenal so-called ‘China model’ is recognized widely, including by the regime itself, but is framed more often than not as a problem of sustained development. What makes this study unique and invaluable is bringing to light efforts to remedy it that also aspire to lend some credence to the regime’s ritual claims to socialism.’ Arif Dirlik, Liang Qichao Memorial Distinguished Visiting Professor, Tsinghua University, Beijing.

‘Across the past century, Chinese thinkers and political activists have returned again and again to the figure of the peasant. Some have seen a figure of dependency and backwardness, awaiting liberation from ‘the idiocy of rural life’. Others envision a figure of possibility: if rural energies can be mobilized for balanced development, then the Chinese economy will prosper, social justice will be achieved, and – most promising of all to some thinkers – China may yet open an alternative pathway to modernity more equitable than the one mapped by contemporary globalization and its theorists. Alexander F. Day brings a fine historical sensibility and a lucid political analysis to this study of an important, heated, and unresolved debate.’ Gail Hershatter, University of California, Santa Cruz

‘In coverage and content, as well as in theoretical import, this book is the only one we have to date in English on the topic of the intellectual discussions on peasants in China’s reform period. It will not only spawn a cottage industry in peasant studies in the US academy, it will undoubtedly become the point of reference for all other discussions of the ‘Chinese development path’ and global economics. Given China’s centrality to the health and wealth of the world economy, Day’s work is well positioned to have a major impact far beyond the China field.’ Rebecca E. Karl, New York University

‘In this invaluable book, Day reminds us that despite China’s unparalleled record of economic development over the past few decades, the figure of the peasant remains at the very centre of Chinese politics. The modernisation of rural communities and integration of the agricultural labour force into global markets has not only transformed Chinese society, but also challenged our understanding of the processes of economic and political development. Day’s incisive summary of recent and contemporary intellectual debates about the role of the peasant in China’s past, present, and future offers an invaluable corrective to those who assume that it is Chinese cities and their residents who have driven China into the future. Instead, Day’s compelling analysis demonstrates that the persistence of the ‘peasant problem’ and its possible solutions may suggest alternative paths to a modernity not defined solely by the criterion of market efficiency.’ Patricia M. Thornton, University of Oxford

At the Cambridge University Press website.

Other Publications:

***NEW*** “A century of rural self-governance reforms: reimagining rural Chinese society in the post-taxation era.” The Journal of Peasant Studies 40.6 (Nov. 2013). Online at the JPS.

“History, Capitalism, and the Making of the Postsocialist Chinese Peasant.” In Global Capitalism and the Future of Agrarian Society, eds. Arif Dirlik, Roxanne Prazniak, and Alexander Woodside. Paradigm Publishers, 2012.

“Depoliticization and the Chinese Intellectual Scene,” Review essay on Wang Hui’s End of the Revolution. Criticism 53.1 (Winter 2011). Read the PREPRINT here.

“The Central China School of Rural Studies: Guest Editor’s Introduction,”
Chinese Sociology and Anthropology: A Journal of Translations, special issue on “The Central China School of Rural Studies,” 41.1 (Fall, 2008): 3-9. Available through your library here. Read a Chinese translation of my introduction here.

“End of the Peasant: New Rural Reconstruction in China,” boundary 2 35.2 (Summer 2008): 49-73. Read the FULL TEXT PDF here.

“Guest Editors’ Introduction” with Matthew Hale, Chinese Sociology and Anthropology: A Journal of Translations, special issue on “New Rural Reconstruction,” 39.4 (Summer, 2007): 3-9. Available through your library here.

“Lotta di classe nella Cina rurale? (Class struggle in rural China?),” Equilibri: Rivista per lo sviluppo sostenibile 11.1 (April 2007): 57-66.

“Interpreting the Cultural Revolution Politically,” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 7.4 (Dec. 2006): 705-712. Read the POSTPRINT here.


“Return of the peasant: History, politics, and the peasantry in postsocialist China,” PhD Dissertation, University of California, Santa Cruz, 2007. Dissertation available at ProQuest. Read the ABSTRACT here.


Modern China

Imperial China

The Transformation of the Chinese Peasant

The Chinese Cultural Revolution and the World Sixties

China and the World

Modern East Asia

The World Since 1945

Seminar in World History

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