The Basic Elements Of Guanxi

1756 Words Apr 13th, 2016 8 Pages
Guanxi, though seemingly self-explanatory, has been plagued by a multitude of definitions. Simply, it can be defined as ‘relationships’ or ‘connections’, however it also connotes the idea that the ties created are built upon exchange and reciprocity. Distinct from outright gift-giving, it reflects a complex set of philosophical concerns, formal ideals, and cultural traditions. As such, in order to analyse its relevance to corruption, the parameters of its practice must first be established. By first constructing a definition of guanxi which counters more formally rigid definitions (see: Guthrie 1998; Li 2011), in search of a working definition, this essay will abandon the hunt for a definitive, universally held ‘truth.’ Due to the variety of ways in which guanxi is viewed, ultimately there is no such solid definition to be found. Rather, the study of guanxi benefits from a flexible approach. Anthropologists have used a variety of methods to understand the fundamental elements of guanxi. Kipnis (1997), using Hebdige’s (1987) concept of ‘versioning’, has provided one such framework. This idea was originally employed to refer to the multiple reworkings of a song, theme, or style that occur through continual reproduction:
There are no single points of origin, and there are no single examples that represent the pure essence of a given song, theme, or cultural practice. Versioning allows one to envision both change and continuity over time and makes psychological essentialism…
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