Readings and training materials PGSS 2007

Class and social stratification: Integrating theories with empirical analysis

Session I - Sociological Approaches to Class and Social Stratification

Dr Wendy Bottero is a lecturer in sociology at the University of Manchester. Her main research interests are in the areas of stratification, hierarchy and 'class' with a particular focus on social mobility and social reproduction.


This session looks at different approaches to conceptualising and measuring stratification in the influential quantitative research tradition. In producing increasingly sophisticated measures of stratification, enabling the development of national and cross-national research programmes, these approaches have built an impressively detailed picture of how stratification affects individual prospects and collective fates. Because of this influence, stratification research has developed a reputation as an essentially quantitative discipline, wedded to structural models of social life, and adopting the most sophisticated statistical techniques. However, this reputation is not wholly positive, and we will explore the various problems and difficulties that different approaches must grapple with. To explore the difficulties stratification research, we will also look in some detail at some of the practical problems that emerge when constructing measures of inequality. We will explore these topics by looking at the Family History Project, which examined the inheritance of family social position in Britain over a 160 year period (1790 – 1950), by looking at the records of amateur family historians. We will explore how social position can be measured in different ways, and what can - and can’t - be said with quantitative data.

Topics covered:

  • Class, status and social interaction approaches to conceptualising and measuring stratification
  • The problems and weaknesses of such approaches
  • Practical problems of constructing measures of inequality and the nature of comparison – how can we compare individuals’ social position across long periods of time?

Required readings:

General overviews:

  • Bottero, W. (2005) Stratification, Abingdon, Routledge [chapters 1, 5 and 9].
  • Bottero, W., ‘Interaction distance and the social meaning of occupations’ in Pettinger, L., Taylor, R., Parry, J. and Glucksmann, M. (eds.) A New Sociology of Work? Blackwell.
  • Roberts, K. (2001), Class in Modern Britain, Basingstoke: Macmillan, [chapter 2 ‘Class schemes’]
  • Savage, M. (2000) Class Analysis and Social Transformation, Buckingham: Open University, [chapter 4].
  • Crompton, R., (1998) Class and Stratification, (2nd edition), Cambridge: Polity. [ch. 1, 4 & 5, conclusion]
  • Savage, M., (1997) ‘Social mobility and the survey method: a critical analysis’ in D. Bertaux and P. Thompson (eds.) Pathways to Social Class, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Social interaction approaches to inequality:

  • Bottero, W. (2005) Stratification, [chapter 9]
  • Bottero, W. & Prandy, K. (2003) ‘Social interaction distance and stratification’, British Journal of Sociology, 54 (2): 177-197.

The family history project:

  • Prandy, K. and Bottero, W. 1998 'The use of marriage data to measure the social order in nineteenth-century Britain', Sociological Research Online 3(1).
  • Prandy, K., and Bottero, W., (2000a) ‘Social reproduction and mobility in Britain and Ireland in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries’, Sociology, 34(2): 265-281.
  • Prandy, K., and Bottero, W. (2000b) ‘Reproduction within and between generations: the example of nineteenth-century Britain’, Historical Methods, 33(1):4-1

Session II - Research on Social Stratification in China in American Sociology

Professor Xueguang Zhou is a professor of sociology and a senior fellow at Freeman and Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. His research is in the areas of social stratification and the sociology of organisations. His current research focuses on microprocesses of institutional change in China's transition economy.


This lecture aims to highlight major research activities in American sociology on changing patterns of social stratification in post-Mao China. I will review the debate on "market transition theory" and several areas of active research. Building on this, I outline a set of emerging research agenda as a critque of this literature.


  • Nee, Victor. 1989. "A Theory of Market Transition: From Redistribution to Markets in State Socialism". American Sociological Review 54:663-681.
  • Walder, Andrew G., Bobai Li, and Donald J. Treiman. 2000. "Politics and life chances in a state socialist regime: dual career paths into the urban Chinese elite, 1949 to 1996". American Sociological Review 65:191-209.
  • Whyte, Martin King. 2005. "Rethinking Equality and Inequality in the PRC". Unpublished manuscript, Department of Sociology, Harvard University.
  • Zhou, Xueguang. 2000, "Economic transformation and income inequality in urban China: evidence from panel data". American Journal of Sociology 105:1135-1174.

Urban Redundancy: Reproduction of Social Inequalities in China

Dr Liu Jieyu is an Academic Fellow of the White Rose East Asia Centre based at the University of Leeds, having previously been a lecturer in Sociology at the University of Glasgow. She is the author of Gender and Work in Urban China: Women Workers of the Unlucky Generation (Routledge 2007) and of journal articles on women in China.


In the first half of the workshop, I will start by introducing the concept of reproduction and then demonstrate its application by examining some case studies of western feminist research in Britain, followed by group discussions among the students. In the second half, I will discuss urban redundancy in China and explore how it is a gendered and classed process, then students will be worked in groups analysing the patterns of reproductions of inequalities in contemporary China and then present their findings in the workshop.

Essential readings

  • Agarwal, R. (1999) ‘“Retrenched” Female Labour in Contemporary China’, China Report, 35(4): 501-508.
  • Appleton, S., Knight, J., Song, Lina and Xia, Qingjie (2002) ‘Labor Retrenchment in China: Determinants and Consequences’, China Economic Review, 13:252-275.
  • Bauer, J., Wang, Feng, Riley, N. E. and Zhao, Xiaohua (1992) ‘Gender Inequality in Urban China: Education and Employment’, Modern China18(3):333-370.
  • Bian Yanjie (1997) 'Bring Strong ties Back in: Indirect Ties, Network Bridges, and Job Searches in China’, American Sociological Review, 62(3): 366-385.
  • Solinger, D. J. (2001) ‘Why We Cannot Count the “Unemployed”?’, The China Quarterly,
  • Summerfield, G. (1994). ‘Economic Reform and the Employment of Chinese Women’ Journal of Economic Issues, 28(3): 715-732.

Futher references

  • Bian, Yanjie (1994) Work and Inequality in Urban China. Albany: State University of New York.
  • Bian, Yanjie (1997) ‘Bringing Strong Ties Back In: Indirect Ties, Network
  • Bourdieu, P. (1986) ‘The Forms of Social Capital’, pp. 241-258 in J.E. Richardson (Ed.) Handbook of Theory for Research in the Sociology of Education, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
  • Bourdieu, P. and Passeron, J.-C. (1977) Reproduction: In Education, Society and Culture. London: Sage.
  • Fowler, B. (2004) ‘Women Architects and their Discontents’, Sociology, vol 38 (1), pp 101-119
  • Gold, T., Guthrie, D. and Wank, D. (eds) (2002) Social Connections in China: Institutions, Culture, and the Changing Nature of Guanxi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Gu, Edward. X. (1999) ‘From Permanent Employment to Massive Layoffs: the Political Economy of “Transitional Unemployment” in Urban China (1993-8)’, Economy and Society, 28(2): 281-299.
  • Lin, Nan (1999). ‘Social Networks and Status Attainment’, Annual Review of Sociology, 25: 467-487.
  • Lin, Nan (2001) Social Capital: A Theory of Social Structure and Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Liu, Jieyu (2007) Gender and Work in Urban China: Women Workers of the Unlucky Generation. London: Routledge.

Conducting Fieldwork in China

Session I - Social Stratification

Dr. Stig Thøgersen is a Professor of Chinese Language and Society, East Asian Department, Institute of History and Area Studies, Aarhus University, Denmark. He has been the member of the editorial board of The European Journal of East Asian Studies (since 1999), The China Journal (since1995), China's Education, Shanghai (since 2000), and the member of theboard of Nordic Association of Chinese Studies (NACS) (since 1997).

Unit 1. Introduction to fieldwork in China

An outline of the history of fieldwork in China, and of the main issues that you will be dealing with during fieldwork. The presentation will be followed by small group discussions where the participants identify what they believe to be the major problems they will be facing during their own fieldwork (access, research partners, language, rapport, validity of interview data, etc.). At the end of this unit the different problems raised in the groups will be discussed.

Unit 2: Preparing the interviews

Discussion of the purpose of the interview. Introduction to the interview situation, and to linguistic aspects of the interview. Preparing in small groups (4-5 people) for interviews on social stratification.

Unit 3. Conducting interviews

Participants will conduct a one hour interview with a Chinese interviewee related to the topic of social stratification. Participants work in groups of 4 to 5 people. Afterwards, the groups will reflect on the form and content of their interview and draw up a short written report on the main results and problems.

Unit 4. Discussion in plenum

The groups will present their main findings, and there will be time for general questions and discussion on methodological issues.

Session II - Migration

Dr Bettina Gransow is an Associate Professor of Chinese Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. She previous worked in Free University Berlin Sinology in Sociology, Political Science.

Unit 1:

  • Understanding basics of semi-structured interviews (interviewing migrants)
  • Small group exercise (I): Establishing 4-5 small groups (different thematic groups with a focus on employment, gender, living conditions, family and networks) and formulating interview questions
  • Small group exercise (II): Interview exercise (each small group with 4-5 students interviewing one “migrant”, two students asking questions and 2-3 students taking notes)
  • Small group exercise (III): Analysing the data and preparing the reporting

Unit 2:

  • Report and dissect the results

Required readings

  • Turning Risks Into Opportunities – Social Assessment Manual for Investment Projects in China (together with Susanna Price) 305 pp. (in print, Chinese publisher): Chapter 2: Methodological framework of social assessment, pp. 47-65.
  • China. New Faces of Ethnography, Chinese History and Society. Berliner China-Hefte Vol. 28 (co-edited by Bettina Gransow, Pal Nyíri und Shiaw-Chian Fong), Münster: Lit Verlag 2005:
  • Jillian Popkins, Defining Poverty: The Role of Social Analysis in Development Policy and Practise in Contemporary China, pp. 83-98
  • Three papers from Maria Heimer and Stig Thøgersen (eds.) Doing Fieldwork in China, NIAS Press/University of Hawaii Press, 2006: 1) Kevin J. O’Brien: Discovery, Research (Re)design, and Theory Building; 2) Mette Halskov Hansen: In the Footsteps of the Communist Party: Dilemmas and Strategies; 3) Bu Wei: Looking for ‘the Insider’s Perspective’: Human Trafficking in Sichuan.

Further readings

  • Xin Liu (ed.) New Reflections on Anthropological Studies of (greater) China, Center for Chinese Studies, Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 2004.
  • Cheung 1998, Sidney (ed), On the South China Track. Perspectives on Anthropological Research and Teaching. Hong kong.
  • Bilsborrow 1984, Richard, A.S. Oberai and Guy Standing (eds), Migration Surveys in Low Income Countries: Guidelines for Survey and Questionnaire Design, London & Sidney: Croom Helm.
  • Charlie Galibert, “Some preliminary notes on actor-observer anthropology”, in International Social Science Journal 181 (September) 2004, pp. 455-465.

Language, Social Life and Stratification

Dr Rachel Murphy is a Lecturer in the Sociology of China at the University of Oxford and visiting research fellow in East Asian Studies at the University of Bristol. Previously she completed her PhD in sociology at Cambridge where she held a British Academy Post Doctoral Fellow and was then a research fellow in Chinese Studies at Oxford. Her main interests are in development studies with relevance to China, in particular, rural-urban interactions, population, and media and culture. She has written articles and chapters on rural education, rural land conflicts, and gender and population policy and is currently researching human development in rural and urban China.


In this section we look at how language, categories, discourses (systems of meaning that operate across a range of texts) and narratives (a subset of discourse in the form of stories which draw on and contribute to discourses) contain and reproduce various kinds of social stratification in everyday life. How does the state use language, categories and valorisations to position some kinds of people above others? How do individuals use and subvert state categories and discourses to claim higher status for themselves? How do individuals use language, knowledge and social rules to exclude others and to benefit themselves? How do different kinds of stratification such as class and gender, reinforce or modify each other? By considering questions such as these we will gain insight into how social stratification and boundaries of inclusion and exclusion are produced and reproduced in everyday life through language and social rules.

Thematic reading

  • David Silverman ‘Chapter 3 – the Research Experience’ in Doing Qualitative Research, pp.31-53.
  • Jean Carabine (2001) ‘Unmarried Motherhood 1830-1990: A Genealogical Analysis’ in Discourse as Data: A Guide for Analysis, ed. by Margaret Wetheral et al Sage, pp.267-310

Illustrative reading

  • Amy Hanser (2003) ‘The Gendered Rice Bowl: The Sexual Politics of Service Work in Urban China’, Gender and Society 19 (5): 581-600.
  • Vanessa L. Fong (2007) “Morality, Cosmopolitanism or Academic Attainment? Discourses on ‘Quality’ and Urban Chinese-Only-Children’s Claims to Ideal Personhood”, City and Society 19 (1): 86-113.
  • Eric Florence (2007) ‘Migrant Workers in the Pearl Delta: Discourse and Narratives about Work as Sites of Struggle’, Critical Asian Studies, 39 (1) (March): 121-150.

Literature search for your PhD in an online environment

Dr Xiyi Huang works as an East Asian and Southeast Asian studies librarian in the University of Leeds. In addition to being specialised in information collection and management, she is the author of "Power, Entitlement and Social Practice: Resource Distribution in North China Villages" (The Chinese University Press, 2007) and a number of journal articles on rural reforms in China.

Mr Dan Pullinger is an information literacy officer at Leeds University Library. He gained an MSC in Information Studies (Distinction, 2004), an MA in English Literature (2002) and a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature (1998).


In the information agem academic resources largely present themselves in the format of electronic books and journals, databases and CD-ROMs and through the Internet. This workshop will show you:
  • What resources in Chinese studies exist online;
  • Where you are going to look for these resources;
  • How to search;
  • How to track academic discussion and keep up-to-date with new information.


The workshop consists of four parts:

  • Introduction and post-questionnaire discussion;
  • Introduction to e-resources in Chinese studies;
  • Strategies and skills for searching;
  • Hands-on exercise: searching for information for a given topic.

Dealing with New Risks: Social Policy in the context of Transition and Globalisation

Dr Heather Xiaoquan Zhang, Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies, Department of East Asian Studies, University of Leeds, has published widely in socio-economic and human development, global-local linkages and the impact of globalisation on development, gender, the socio-economic consequences of HIV/AIDS, livelihood analysis, rural-urban migration and social policy research in China.


In this session, we attempt to look at the social risks emerging with market transition and increasing globalisation in China and how the Chinese institutions, such as the family, the market and state, have responded to such risks. Based on a comparison of social policy as a means of mediating and managing risks before and after the market reforms, we explore the changing nature of risks in Chinese society and examine the ways in which exposure to risks has been differentiated along the lines of existing or emerging inequalities and shifting social stratification during the past three decades, leading to new forms of poverty, vulnerability, insecurity and social exclusion. We discuss the more recent institutional responses to such risks through, e.g. building social safety nets, identify the goals and objectives of such measures and assess their effectiveness. We reflect on relevant concepts like risk society, risk and citizenship as well as risk and class before applying them to the analysis of the evolution and changes in China’s social policy and welfare regimes, and their implications for development and well-being in the country.

Indicative reading (key readings are underlined)

  • Cook, Ian G. and Dummer, Trevor J.B. (2007) ‘Spatial and Social Marginalisation of Health in China: The Impact of Globalisation’, in Zhang, H. X.; Wu, B. and Sanders, R. (eds.) Marginalisation in China: perspectives on transition and globalisation, Ashgate, pp. 215-238.
  • Croll, E. (1999) Social welfare reform: trends and tensions, The China Quarterly, 159: 684-699.
  • Guan, Xinping (2001) Globalisation, inequality and social polity: China on the threshold of entry into the World Trade Organization, Social Policy and Administration, 35(3): 242-257.
  • Leung, Joe C.B. (2003) Social security reforms in China: issues and prospects, International Journal of Social Welfare, 12: 73-85.
  • Li, Ling (1999) Family insurance or social insurance: policy options for China’s social security reform, International Journal of Economic Development, 1(4): 431-450.
  • Whiteford, Peter (2003) From enterprise protection to social protection: pension reform in China, Global Social Policy, 3(1): 45-77.
  • Zhu, C. J. and Nyland, C. (2005) Marketisation, globalisation, and social protection reform in China: implications for the global social protection debate and for foreign investors, Thunderbird International Business Review, 47(1): 49-73.

On risk and social policy

  • Culpitt, Ian (1999) Social policy and risk, London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi: Sage.
  • Edwards, R. and Glover, J. (2001) Risk and Citizenship: key issues in welfare, London & New York: Routledge.
  • Kemshall, H. (2002) Risk, social policy and welfare, Buckingham: Open University Press. On writing research proposals
  • Hart, C. (1998) Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination, London, Thousand Oaks & New Delhi: Sage (look at Appendix 1: the Research Proposal).
  • Punch, K. (2006) (2nd edition) Developing effective research proposal, Sage.
On writing research proposals
  • Hart, C. (1998) "Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination", London, Thousand Oaks & New Delhi: Sage (look at Appendix 1: the Research Proposal).
  • Punch, K. (2006) (2nd edition) "Developing effective research proposal", Sage.