Involution of Chinese society


contributed by Xi Yuanyuan

Involution of society is derived from American anthropologist Clifford Geertz “Agricultural involution”. According to Geertz, “involution” means the phenomenon that a social or cultural model stagnated or cannot be developed into another advanced form after a certain development order to a certain form, so inner curl can also be translated into “stagnation” , or “overdense” .

From the Qin Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty, China changed several dynasties, but it was still in the feudal society of small scale farming peasant economy and could not develop a capitalist society. This was a typical internalization, therefore, the ending is it was be oppressed for 100 years.

In other words, the young people become content with the status quo, “natural selection, survival of the fittest”, owing they do not adapt to the development of contemporary society high tempo, choose to be a lay flat youth.

The pressure to go to school is increasing, the university enrollment quota is limited, the society is putting more emphasis on a college degree. Therefore, children and teenagers study day and night to prepare for the exam. There parents sign them up for cram schools and anxiety to beat the competition becomes more intense.

In China, housing prices are increasing drastically, which is a topic for everyone to talk about after dinner. There are too many people wanting to buying houses for speculation and not living, which has pushed the house price to an outrageous level. This housing price increase seems to increase the manicness of people’s everyday lives.

Demanding bosses, 996 work hours, and intense competition are the reality to most students face in schools across the nation since a young age. University graduates find it next to impossible to find a good paying job, and are forced to endure practically inhumane work-hours in low-paying jobs, leaving no time for personal life.

Individuals are locked in a low level of the state, in a certain social cycle, the transition of life is not within reach. In the age of “internalization,” everything presents a low level of competition, which can be confusing and anxious for all of us involved. The essence of the low level social life is limited resources, limited distribution,  but people’s desire is infinite.

These years have seen the emergence of lay flat youth (佛系青年), funeral culture (丧文化),  because of the social pressure young people lose their enthusiasm. In other words, the young people become content with the status quo, “natural selection, survival of the fittest”, owing they do not adapt to the development of contemporary society high tempo, choose to be a lay flat youth. When a creature is hurt, the instinctive reaction is to comfort itself by saying that it is a Buddhist youth. This is also self-comforting and egoistic thinking.

There is also a circulation of sarcastic memes about mundane work and intense work enviornment. Such as “overtime dogs” (jiaban gou; 加班狗), corporate cattle (shechu; 社畜), and brick-movers (ban zhuan; 搬砖) have become popular for describing any occupation who all share the pain of doing nerve racking labor.

Where is the way out for the youth in the involvement of society?

Only when you gain the cognitive differences between people can you avoid engaging in a pointless artificial competition and make the right choices in your life. Therefore, for individuals, we also need to keep open, constantly absorb knowledge, constantly explore ourselves, so as to find the second curve of life development. For example, develop hobbies outside of work to create a unique track for yourself so that you don’t get caught up in the anxiety, confusion and competition to take your place in this ever-changing world.

“involution” isn’t scary. What’s scary is that we’re stuck in it without realizing it, locked in inefficient self-repetition, wasting our time.






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