Putting the Politics Back In
This chapter defines politics as that network of power relationships extending from the family to the neighborhood, to the village, to the region, to the nation state, and beyond it. It is in these networks of unequal actors that the linkage among economic forces and cultural practices are negotiated. One way in which politics can be configured usefully in discussions of fertility decisions is in terms of Beck's hypothesis of the “Risk Society.” Derived from changes in norms about gender roles in Europe, this framework has uses in other contexts as well. Chinese villagers making decisions about their family size face risks of a different character but make their own assessments, which the “risk hypothesis” helps to illuminate. Village elders govern the decisions of individual couples under Communism, just as they have done for centuries in China, but for decades now, there has also been a state framework promoting the one-child family.
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