In modern China, technocratic utopias go side by side with moral panics. The modernization process is seen as creating the 'disorders' of criminality, sex, and modern youth culture. The official answer to disorder is an exemplary societyan educative and disciplinary society where 'human quality' and model behaviour is advocated. Modern Chinese society, however, resists being reduced to the exemplary discipline of its social engineers, and strategies of 'lying' and resisting control are routine. This pathbreaking study analyses traditional and modern Chinese beliefs about and reactions to education, discipline, human improvement, and social control. Although these reactions to modernity have a Chinese colouring, they are not exclusive to the Chinese culture. By describing the terra incognita of China, The Exemplary Society also describes something about ourselves.
Borge Bakken is Senior Researcher at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) in Copenhagen. He has previously been Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of Oslo and Research Fellow in the Norwegian Research Council.