Discourse of Hedonism and Extravagance: Tension Between the Agency and the Actor

  • Shaoying Zhang
  • Derek McGhee
Part of the Politics and Development of Contemporary China book series (PDCC)


This chapter will show that the discourse on hedonism and extravagance is about the tension between the subject’s agency and the self in the struggle for balance between the restrictions laid down by the Party and the freedom officials enjoy (or more accurately, enjoyed). In this struggle, the normative power of the Party “works on” its members who live hedonistically and extravagantly through reinforcing “their duty to be.” Thus, as we will show, the new disciplinary measures adopted by the Party are dedicated to the regulation of officials’ individual behaviours in order to turn officials’ gaze towards their corrupt self as the site from whence their ethical self might emerge.

Thus, the discourse of the care of the people (the masses) includes the care of the self through denying the self. It is expected that by regulating the everyday behaviours of officials, the ethical subjectivities of officials can be reformulated and through this collective process the morality of the Party can be restored. This process can be described as a means of restoring the ethical virtue of officials through governing their habits. In this context, respect for one’s duty thus becomes a sacrificial exercise (through the abandoning of enjoyable but prohibited practices) on the self. It is assumed that living ascetically is a sign of an ethical subject and it is further assumed that ethical subjectivity will lead to virtuous work. Thus, the austerity measures (such as the eight-point code) are not only associated with the imposition of a doctrinal principle but are also for creating a sense of sacrifice among officials, which is deemed essential for creating a sense of respect for their duty.


Public Fund Provincial Government Party Member County Government Disciplinary Department 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shaoying Zhang
    • 1
  • Derek McGhee
    • 2
  1. 1.Shanghai University of Political Science and LawShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Department of Sociology, Social Policy, CriminologyUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

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