Revolutionizing the Family: Politics, Love, and Divorce in Urban and Rural China, 1949?1968

by Neil J. Diamant

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS | March 4, 2000 | Hardcover

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In 1950, China''s new Communist government enacted a Marriage Law to allow free choice in marriage and easier access to divorce. Prohibiting arranged marriages, concubinage, and bigamy, it was one of the most dramatic efforts ever by a state to change marital and family relationships. In this comprehensive study of the effects of that law, Neil J. Diamant draws on newly opened urban and rural archival sources to offer a detailed analysis of how the law was interpreted and implemented throughout the country.
In sharp contrast to previous studies of the Marriage Law, which have argued that it had little effect in rural areas, Diamant argues that the law reshaped marriage and family relationships in significant--but often unintended--ways throughout the Maoist period. His evidence reveals a confused and often conflicted state apparatus, as well as cases of Chinese men and women taking advantage of the law to justify multiple sexual encounters, to marry for beauty, to demand expensive gifts for engagement, and to divorce on multiple occasions. Moreover, he finds, those who were best placed to use the law''s more liberal provisions were not well-educated urbanites but rather illiterate peasant women who had never heard of sexual equality; and it was poor men, not women, who were those most betrayed by the peasant-based revolution.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 458 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.25 in

Published: March 4, 2000

Publisher: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0520217209

ISBN - 13: 9780520217201

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Revolutionizing the Family: Politics, Love, and Divorce in Urban and Rural China, 1949?1968

by Neil J. Diamant

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 458 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.25 in

Published: March 4, 2000

Publisher: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0520217209

ISBN - 13: 9780520217201

About the Book

A new look at the impact of the Communist Revolution on Chinese family structure.

From the Publisher

In 1950, China''s new Communist government enacted a Marriage Law to allow free choice in marriage and easier access to divorce. Prohibiting arranged marriages, concubinage, and bigamy, it was one of the most dramatic efforts ever by a state to change marital and family relationships. In this comprehensive study of the effects of that law, Neil J. Diamant draws on newly opened urban and rural archival sources to offer a detailed analysis of how the law was interpreted and implemented throughout the country.
In sharp contrast to previous studies of the Marriage Law, which have argued that it had little effect in rural areas, Diamant argues that the law reshaped marriage and family relationships in significant--but often unintended--ways throughout the Maoist period. His evidence reveals a confused and often conflicted state apparatus, as well as cases of Chinese men and women taking advantage of the law to justify multiple sexual encounters, to marry for beauty, to demand expensive gifts for engagement, and to divorce on multiple occasions. Moreover, he finds, those who were best placed to use the law''s more liberal provisions were not well-educated urbanites but rather illiterate peasant women who had never heard of sexual equality; and it was poor men, not women, who were those most betrayed by the peasant-based revolution.

From the Jacket

In 1950 China''s new Communist government passed a Marriage Law that ranks as one of the most dramatic efforts ever by a state to change marital and family relationships. The law prohibited arranged marriages, concubinage, and bigamy, and citizens were now given free choice in marriage and easier access to divorce. In this comprehensive study of the effects of that law, Neil J. Diamant draws on newly opened urban and rural archival sources for a detailed analysis of how the law was interpreted and implemented throughout the country.

In sharp contrast to previous studies of the Marriage Law, which have concluded that it had little long-lasting effect in rural areas, Diamant argues that the law reshaped marriage and family relationships in significant -- but often unintended -- ways throughout the Maoist period. His evidence reveals a "bumbling" and at times conflicted state apparatus, as well as cases where Chinese men and women took advantage of the law to engage in multiple sexual encounters (some to "class enemies"), to marry for desire and beauty, to demand expensive gifts for engagement, and to divorce frequently. Moreover, he finds, those who were best placed to use the law''s more liberal provisions were not modern, well-educated urbanites but rather illiterate peasant women who had never heard of sexual equality and who even insisted upon maintaining the traditional sexual division of labor in the family; those whose interests were most damaged by the Marriage Law were not women, who have often been portrayed as victims of communist patriarchy, but rather poor men in whose name the revolution was carried out.

Filled with a detailed depiction of the workings of multiple levelsof the Chinese state, as well as many anecdotes about urban and rural family life, this original and provocative book will have broad appeal in political science, legal and gender studies, history, sociology, and history.

About the Author

Neil J. Diamant is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Tel Aviv University.

From Our Editors

China's new Communist government enacted a Marriage Law in 1950 to permit free choice in marriage and easier access to divorce, while prohibiting arranged marriages, concubinage and bigamy. It was among the most dramatic attempts that a state has ever made to transform marital and family relationships. Revolutionizing the Family: Politics, Love and Divorce in Urban and Rural China, 1949-1968 examines the impact the law had and how it was interpreted and implemented throughout the nation. Neil J. Diamant contends that the law reshaped marriage and family relationships in profound and often unexpected ways throughout the Maoist period.

Editorial Reviews

"Revolutionizing the Family is without doubt the most exciting and important book to have appeared on marriage practices and family reform in the 1950''s and 1960''s since the classics on the topic of the 1970''s and early 1980''s. Neil Diamant examines newly opened urban and rural archives to produce a detailed and richly documented analysis of the interpretation, implementation and effects of the 1950 Marriage law in diverse part of the country. . . . Diamant develops a wealth of critically important arguments that contribute to our understanding, not only of marriage, divorce and the family, but also of issues including state legitimacy, legal culture, and the characteristics and causes of violence. . . . This book promises to make an enormous difference to the way scholars approach the relation between women, family and the state in this period."--China Review
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