Abstract

In this essay we argue that stories of rich merchants enable us to see new forms of neoliberal subject imaginary. They serve to teach the public about how to become a profit- seeking person, given that previously formal education did not prepare citizens of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to pursue profit. These popular materials invite the public to reconceptualize the relationship between individuals and society and in this sense constitute a significant cultural strategy for governing the population. Tracing the Chinese variations of the global logic of neoliberal economic man and cultural governance, we intend to read the merchant stories as instances of “glocalization” of neoliberal economic man and demonstrate that the “translation” of the global logic of capitalism to suit local conditions is by no means a neat and tidy task. Our analysis proceeds in two parts. The first section discusses Michel Foucault’s concept of human capital and Ludwig von Mises’s theory of human action to define neoliberal economic man and then relates these concepts to the formation of a variety of rich- merchant stories. The second section delves into the question of how biographies of the new rich convey, in concrete terms, the practices of cultural governance and reshape agents in the model of the neoliberal economic man, and how these rich- merchant stories prove paradigmatic for entrepreneurs- to- be.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-8271
Print ISSN
1067-9847
Pages
pp. 877-906
Launched on MUSE
2014-12-06
Open Access
No
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