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Voluntary Failure in Village Culture-Building: The Case of the Qu Yuan Village Library

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image of The China Nonprofit Review

Abstract Villages were once viewed as the base of individual and clan-centered human life. Against the waves of modernization and globalization, however, village culture has withered, gradually lost its original cultural sprit, and become a cultural desert. With the central government pursuing its “three rurals” campaign, developing agriculture and advancing new village-building, people across all sectors of society have paid increasing attention to the lag in culture-building in China’s villages. The Qu Yuan Village Library is the result of volunteer activities associated with the new focus on villages. This article takes the library as its example. This analysis of its formation, operations and challenges affords us a unique view into village-level volunteerism. The piece demonstrates how much village-level culture-building depends on the participation of elites from outside villages who donate much like “donating blood” or “giving alms”. Though these elites, rich in social resources and volunteer spirit, may be able to increase provision of cultural public goods in the short-run, because they lack long-term mechanisms for resource mobilization and sustained local participation, their efforts often result in “voluntary failure”. Resolving this issue will require “multi-centric” entities such as governments, markets and volunteer organizations to coordinate in order to ensure full expression of their functions.


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1. Hui Chen陈辉">“村庄行动能力与社会主义新农村文化建设 : 从荆门官桥老年协会的运行看”/“cun zhuang xing dong neng li yu she hui zhe yi xin nong cun wen hua jian she”" “Village Action Capacity and Socialist New Village Culture-Building: Lessons from Actions by the Xingmenguanqiao Elderly Association” 文史博览 /wen shi bo lan 4, 2006
2. Xiaoyan Chen陈晓燕"“村级治理中精英与民众合作机制的构建 : 不同村庄村级治理模式的案例分析”/“cun ji zhi li zhong jing ying yu min zhong he zuo ji zhi de gou jian: bu tong cun zhuang cun ji zhi li mo shi de an li fen xi”" “Creation of Cooperative Mechanisms Between Elites and Locals in Village Governance: An Analysis of Governance Models in Several Villages” Master’s Thesis, Shanxi University, 2008
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4. Haiyan Gu顾敏燕"“汶川地震中的 ‘志愿失灵’ ”/“wen zhou di zhen zhong de ‘zhi yuan shi ling’”" “ ‘Volunteer Failures’ in the Reponse to the Wenzhou Earthquake” 社会福利 /she hui fu li 2 (2009)
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6. Xuefeng He贺雪峰"“社会主义新农村建设与中国道路”/“she hui zhe yi xin nong cun jian she yu zhong guo dao lu”" “Socialist New Village-Building and China’s Path” 读书 /du shu 8, (2006)
7. Xuefeng He贺雪峰"“文化建设再造农民福利”/“wen hua jian she zai zao nong min fu li”" “Culture-Building and the Re-creation of Rural Benefits” 瞭望新闻周刊 /pan wang xin wen zhou kan 1, (2006)
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10. Youliang Liu刘优良"“新农村文化建设中的公众参与 : 以 ‘屈原乡村图书馆’ 捐建活动为例”/“xin nong cun wen hua jian she zhong de gong zhong can yu: yi ‘qu yuan xiang cun tu shu guan’ juan jian huo dong wei li”" “Public Participation in New Village Culture-Building: The Donate-Build Case of the Qu Yuan Village Library” 云梦学刊 /yun meng xue kan 2 (2009) 85
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13. Xiaobo Wu吴晓波"“教授们的乡村试验”/“jiao shou men de xiang cun shi yan”" “The Experience of Professors in Villages” 中外管理 /zhong wai guan li 3, (2009)
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