Re-Engineering the “Chinese Soul” in Shanghai?

ProtoSociology 26:192-212 (2009)

Foreign managers in China talked about the need to “re-engineer the Chinese soul” in order to make employees conform to global corporate norms. My approach examines how Western business knowledge and practices are transferred to Shanghai in two major ways. First, I discuss attempts by American managers to focus on corporate norms aimed at disciplining Chinese employees to be team players, not entrepreneurial figures. Frustrations encountered in attempts to “re-engineer” workers are expressed in terms of the opposition between Western business “rationality” and Chinese cultural “irrationality.” Chinese employees appear to be driven less by company rules and goals than by individualist careerist moves in a turbulent job market. Western management knowledge is also entering not through American companies but through returning Chinese expatriates who exercise a sophisticated blind of business enterpreneurialism and cultural knowledge in their business dealings. The article concludes by identifying the contradiction in foreign firms wishing to remake Chinese workers as neoliberal subjects but then these same workers are faulted for being too self-enterprising and China critiqued as a site where neoliberal opportunism has run wild
Keywords Applied Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  Social Science
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ISBN(s) 1434-4319
DOI 10.5840/protosociology2009269
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