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POLI 422 - Tsai: Women and the State in Post-1949 Rural China

Political Science
Course Code
POLI 422
Juan Wang

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Tsai – Women and the State in Post-1949 Rural China
Women were granted full legal equality; yet the social mindset did not accompany
this de jure achievement.
Goal: “to shed light on the persistence of gender inequalities in socialist countries
despite their ideological commitment to the emancipation of women.”
Two issues: state capacity to implement developmental strategy, and the sources of
gender biases.
Argument: endurance of gender inequalities suggests the centrality of patriarchy as
a socially-constructed system, and that patriarchy may survive changes in political
or economic orientations because they are deeply embedded in the very efforts
Theoretical Context
Neither political science nor women-in-development (WID) frameworks by
themselves can explain the persistence of gender inequalities in socialist countries.
State development theories may demonstrate limit of state capacity in enforcing
norms/policies, but they do not address sources of gender biases.
WID focuses only on gender bias as a consequence of capitalism, which seems to
be inapplicable to the current issue.
However, both are helpful in identifying the state as a significant actor.
To evaluate strength of state, it is necessary to examine state-society relations as a
series of linkages between policy elites, central and local authorities, and these
authorities to households.
While the theoretical frameworks here take place within a capitalist context, they
may still be applied to socialist countries that are in market-oriented transition. “Are
gender inequalities exacerbated [by increasing market intrusion] as Marxists would
expect?... Or does the position of women improve as a by-product of reform,
thereby broadly confirming liberal hypotheses?” (497)
However, examination at the state level is not enough. Patriarchal norms are
institutionalized. The state is just one such institution. Households may be another.
Thus, the existence of patriarchy in socialist countries may be seen derived from
both the state and the household. “That is, gender norms are constructed and
realized at both levels in a mutually reinforcing manner” (499).
This means adopting the view that the state and the household are interactive
rather than parallel institutions in generating gender biases.
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