Utilizing the moral nobility of older Chinese women in governance: The uses of humility, empathy, and an ethics of care in moral clinics in Huzhou city
Wen M, Zhang S & McGhee D (2020) Utilizing the moral nobility of older Chinese women in governance: The uses of humility, empathy, and an ethics of care in moral clinics in Huzhou city. British Journal of Sociology, 71 (2), pp. 300-313. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-4446.12736
This paper examines the emergence of the role of “moral doctors” who volunteer in what are called “moral clinics” in Huzhou city. In these moral clinics, the characteristics, experiences, and attributes of older women, in particular, are highly valued and viewed as being essential to the role of the moral doctor. These moral doctors act as moral exemplars and conflict mediators in their local communities. Their moral capital and professionalism, combined with their gender, age, familial and neighborhood attributes, contribute to the accumulation of an affective feminized labor which employs the techniques of care, reason, and moral fortitude to govern the self and others. We unpack these ethical virtues exemplified by moral doctors and nurses in order to show how a female-centric “ethic of care” can become a set of techniques in governing others. In this paper, we elaborate on the role that these moral doctors perform to support the aims of the moral clinics in terms of fostering pro-social behavior and moral obligation in local communities. We argue that the performance of this type of “moral work” is both a mechanism of discipline and a process of self-actualization. We contribute to the current literature on “therapeutic governance” in China by showing how the non-expert medicalization of social ills by moral doctors is incorporated into the reproduction of social control.
affection and reason; affective labor; China; ethics of care; moral clinics; moral doctors
British Journal of Sociology: Volume 71, Issue 2
|Publication date online||13/01/2020|
|Date accepted by journal||19/12/2019|