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Yu Jianrong Conflict in the Countryside: The Emerging Political Awareness of the Peasants 1. THE MEANING OF SOCIAL ACTION ORIENTATION THERE ARE TWO BASIC WAYS TO UNDERSTAND THE METHODS OF THE contemporary Chinese resistance movement to protect the rights of peasants: the logic of action and the structure of action. The logic of social action deals with the emergence and the development of social action; it is very much part of the study of motivations (in examining the logic of social action, it is important to pay attention to the process of its inception and development, the meanings of which are given by social action theory). The structure of social action is essentially concerned with its internal forms. These represent the basis by which to determine the nature of social action and also provide an impor­ tant basis by which the nature of social action is determined. The inter­ nal structure of any kind of social action can be divided into various aspects, such as action patterns, action techniques, action orientation, and other special properties of action. Social action orientations are not only related to regulatory systems of social action—meaning the standards of what actors can and cannot do—they are also even more related to why actors perform one way rather than another; these are the fundamental issues relating to action. As Max Weber pointed out in Economy and Society, the important factors for determining social oriensocial research Vol 73 : No 1: Spring 2006 141 tations, including not to do something or to tolerate something, are (1) the rationality of goals, and by anticipating the circumstances of the facts of the external world and the conduct of other people to utilize this anticipation as a ‘condition’ or a ‘method’ in order to await the realization of the intended results that one strives for and considers by way of one’s conformance with rationality; (2) the rationality of values, and by the pure belief (no matter if it is interpreted in terms of logic, aesthetics, or religion) in unconditional, intrinsic value, to deal with any specific conduct consciously, regardless of whether or not one attains results; (3) morale, particularly in relation to emotions, and the condi­ tions arising from present morale and emotions; (4) tradition, arising from popularly agreed upon custom. Simply stated, the “foundations of the orientations of social action can be: (a) convention, (b) interest, or (c) legal order” (Parsons, 2003: 728). If we apply this to the examina­ tion and analysis of the contemporary Chinese resistance movement to protect the rights of peasants, we will discover that “interest” is the basis of their action orientation, “legality” is the special feature of their action, and “custom” is the method of their action. Clearly, this movement possesses the ingredients of social modernity, the customs of rural Chinese traditional society, and moreover, is characterized by the fact that peasants are the subjects of social action. Only by under­ standing these ingredients, customs, and legal appeals shall we be in a position to draw an exhaustive map of the contemporary Chinese resis­ tance movement to protect the rights of peasants. Iwill attempt to use the resistance movement to protect the rights of peasants in Hengyang County in Hunan Province as the concrete evidence of my analysis in order to examine the action orientations of this resistance movement. Hengyang County in Hunan Province is situ­ ated in Central China, and is a typical Chinese agricultural economic region. The peasants and the peasant leaders of this county who have organized this resistance movement have already attracted a high degree of attention among Chinese scholars, and they have influenced Chinese government agricultural policies (Yu Jianrong, 2003). The sources of this paper come from my own protracted follow-up inter­ 142 social research views with the leaders of the resistance movement to protect the rights of peasants. 2. THE OBJECTIVES OF ACTION AND THE EXPRESSION OF INTEREST Interest is usually considered a key factor in social action. “By way of the category o f‘interest,’ we can on the basis of the shared expectations of actors work out the orientations of ‘rationality of goals’ in order to understand the unity of their action” (Parsons...


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