The Autumn Harvest: Peasants and Markets in Post-Collective Rural China

For the peasants in rural China, the harvest season is the occasion when several different worlds—the business world of large companies, the entrepreneurial world of middlemen, local elites and peasant households—are compressed into the same social space, thereby inducing intensive economic and social interactions and crystallizing social relations among villagers, local elites and markets. Based on ethnographic research on the autumn harvest in a township in northern China, this study sheds light on distinctive modes of market transactions across produces, and diverse interactions between markets and local institutions involving different co-ordination mechanisms, rhythms and social relationships. A more nuanced image of market transactions emerges from these observations, calling for a more refined conceptualization of markets and further research on their implications for institutional changes.