Burning out in emotional capitalism: Appropriation of ganqing and renqing in the Chinese platform economy

Ling Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Based on a three-year digital ethnography as an educational consultant on the Chinese digital platform X, I use guanxi, enduring interpersonal relationships, to explain how people voluntarily work to the extent of burning out. Drawing on literature about emotion and work in precarious labour, and especially the discussion on emotional capitalism, I demonstrate that it is not because of the lack of social connections that people engage in auto-exploitation and burning out, as Han Byung-chul argues, but precisely because of shared values and the emotions people develop for each other that people commit more to work. Complementing research on digital economic tribes, I argue that guanxi could serve as an analytical framework to decipher the buyer–seller relationship on platforms. In particular, I use two guanxi-related concepts ganqing (emotional attachments) and renqing (norms of interpersonal relationship) to explain why I worked voluntarily and obligatorily for the students I met via X.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Sociology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Sep 2021

User-Defined Keywords

  • burnout
  • China
  • digital labour
  • economic tribe
  • emotional capitalism
  • ganqing
  • guanxi
  • Han Byung-chul
  • platform economy
  • renqing

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