Questioning the relevance of well-being in a Chinese context: an archaeological and anthroplogical examination

Ng, Kong Man Joey (2019) Questioning the relevance of well-being in a Chinese context: an archaeological and anthroplogical examination. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Well-being is made critical to business management (Shizgal, 1999; Warr, 2011). Nevertheless, is well-being significant to the Chinese? In response to this inquiry, a problem of essentialism is suspected – Well-being could be universally misappropriated in a Chinese context under a positivist or functionalist epistemology. If so, an indigenous subject is being deprived of its voice in the discourse. For that reason, this thesis seeks to diagnose and overcome essentialism in the discourse. Two research questions are formulated respectively:

1. How does the discourse of well-being emerge and transform in a Chinese context?

2. Do members of family business in Hong Kong draw upon the discourse of well-being in their daily practices? If not, what expressions do they use in a given period of time?

This thesis positions itself within the critical management studies. Both archaeology and anthropology are deployed as the methodology. The first question is answered by way of an archaeological examination in which a close reference to Foucault’s (1972) archaeology is drawn; while the second question is handled by way of an anthropological examination and upholding ethics in research. In particular, Geertz’s (1973) ‘thick description’ is used to explore an indigenous voice.

The findings indicate that well-being is not a culturally universal concept. In the archaeological examination, essentialism is diagnosed when well-being is transformed into a Chinese context. In the anthropological examination, the research subject – members of family business in Hong Kong, did not draw upon the discourse of well-being. They used multiple Chinese expressions, including jia ting (family), peng you (friends), kai xin gong zuo (happy work) and xin zhong fu you (being rich at heart-mind). These local expressions are further contextualised based on two Chinese notions: xing fu (living well) and xin (heart-mind).

This thesis contributes to debates related to questioning well-being in cross-cultural management. Well-being is found to be insignificant in a Chinese context. The framework of well-being has limitations in explaining a Chinese subject. Hence, the assumed universality of well-being is challenged. Misappropriating well-being in a Chinese context could imply a subtle colonisation of management ideologies and practices. In order to recover an indigenous voice, a discursive space is opened where a Chinese perspective is brought into the centre of discussion. In addition to the framework of well-being, the findings are re-interpreted from Chinese sources (mainly its language and philosophies). In this way, this study shed some light on the conditions of possibility for a Chinese theory. Hence, making a methodological contribution related to epistemology. At last, this thesis calls for diversity and reflexivity in management and research practices.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Xu, Qi
Shepherd, Craig
Treanor, Lorna
Keywords: well-being; Chinese perspective
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 55958
Depositing User: Ng, Kong
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2019 04:40
Last Modified: 07 May 2020 11:31

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