Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 18 Issue 3 (May/June 2008), Pages 153-267

To have and to be: towards the social representation of quality of life in China (pages 233-252)


This study explores the social representation of quality of life (QOL) in the Chinese socio‐cultural context. The data were collected by 16 open‐ended individual interviews. The study shows that the social representation of QOL embedded deeply in the collective memory of Chinese society is generated from, and organized around, the central thema of ‘having’/‘being’. ‘Having’ and ‘being’ are both antinomic and dialogically interdependent. ‘Having’ gives priority to how subject instrumentalizes object as resources to be possessed and consumed. It is manifested in the possessions of money, food, housing and car. The possessions are not only simply the material things but also the objects of symbolic significance. ‘Being’ prioritizes the authentic relationship between subject and object. It is manifested in rootedness, connectedness, participation and freedom. These provide a sense of belonging, commitment, direction and purpose and involve the establishment and maintenance of the union between the self and others, and between the individual and the outside world. On the other hand, neither ‘having’ nor ‘being’ exists in its pure form. Rather, they co‐exist dynamically, in rival or complementary ways, and each calls the possibility of the other into play. It is the synthesis of opposites between ‘having’ and ‘being’ that the social representation of QOL is generated and structured. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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