RAS Book Club

Anxious Wealth: Money and Wealth among China’s New Rich

Author: John Osburg, 2013

John Osburg’s research is concerned with the relationship between market economies and systems of cultural value, affect, and morality. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Rochester, New York, USA.

Anxious Wealth is a pioneering investigation introducing readers to the private lives—and the nightlives—of the powerful entrepreneurs and managers redefining success and status in the city of Chengdu. From 2003 to 2006 he conducted ethnographic fieldwork among a group of wealthy Chinese businessmen. Over the course of more than three years, Osburg accompanied, and in some instances assisted them, wealthy as they courted clients, partners, and government officials.

Anxious Wealth is a pioneering investigation introducing readers to the private lives—and the nightlives—of the powerful entrepreneurs and managers redefining success and status in the city of Chengdu. From 2003 to 2006 he conducted ethnographic fieldwork among a group of wealthy Chinese businessmen. Osburg accompanied, and in some instances assisted them, as they courted clients, partners, and government officials.

He observes how intricate social networks play a key role in generating business, reinforcing social status, and reconfiguring gender roles. He observes also how, in this evolving environment, many feel trapped by their obligations and moral compromises. Ultimately, Osburg examines their deep ambivalence about China’s future and their own complicity in the major issues of post-Mao Chinese society—corruption, inequality, materialism, and loss of trust.

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