In contrast to the existing argument that the logic of capital has monetised almost every aspect of human relationships to the realm of exchange value, this article explores the social values that are practised by Chinese working-class youth as an alternative form of agency and everyday practice. Instead of understanding social values as a realm of value operating entirely outside the logic of exchange value, this article takes social values as the constitutive other of exchange value embodied in the neoliberalised form of capitalism. It attempts to develop a micro-foundation of social values or a social mechanism of values for understanding social protection and class solidarity. Employing in-depth interviews and ethnographic observations in vocational schools in China, at sites for the education and nurture of working-class youth, we ask what social values are, how they are perceived and exercised, and by whom. From students’ practices of care in schools, cooperation in the workplace and solidarity in the community, our goal is to build a micro-foundation of social values that challenges and goes beyond the logic of exchange value.
Bibliographical noteThe work described in this article was substantially supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (C5010-15G).
- social values
- vocational education
- working class