Best Practice

Management Consulting and the Ethics of Financialization in China

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: Published: November 2018

Author: Kimberly Chong

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies > East Asia, Sociology

In Best Practice Kimberly Chong provides an ethnography of a global management consultancy that has been hired by Chinese companies, including Chinese state-owned enterprises. She shows how consulting emerges as a crucial site for considering how corporate organization, employee performance, business ethics, and labor have been transformed under financialization. To date financialization has been examined using top-down approaches that portray the rise of finance as a new logic of economic accumulation. Best Practice, by contrast, focuses on the everyday practices and narratives through which companies become financialized. Effective management consultants, Chong finds, incorporate local workplace norms and assert their expertise in the particular terms of China's national project of modernization, while at the same time framing their work in terms of global “best practices.” Providing insight into how global management consultancies refashion Chinese state-owned enterprises in preparation for stock market flotation, Chong demonstrates both the dynamic, fragmented character of financialization and the ways in which Chinese state capitalism enables this process.


"In this well-written book, the author underscores for her readers how consultancy unfolds as a very crucial site for the consideration of the transformation, in China, of corporations as well as business ethics, employee performance and labor in general in the context of financialization." — Augustine Adu Frimpong and Noah Kankam Kwarteng, African and Asian Studies

"Best Practice is an engaging ethnography based on immersive, multisited fieldwork, and is worth reading for anthropologists specializing in work, business, and capitalism, both inside and outside of China." — Xinyan Peng, Anthropology of Work Review

"Based on rich, immersive fieldwork, this book allows for understanding the complex social processes whereby 'financialization' takes place, as a combination of multiple repertoires such as shareholder value, modernization, nationalism, culturalism, state capitalism and the teleologies of globalization they facilitate." — Horacio Ortiz, Asian Anthropology

"Best Practice carves out a very interesting and revealing picture of the organizational-level behaviors for management consulting in many different aspects, including performance management, outsourcing, corporate social responsibility, training, and relations with clients." — Qian Jiwei, Asian Journal of Social Science

"Kimberly Chong’s Best Practice o?ers a thought-provoking ethnography. . . . This book is an important addition to the rapidly expanding ?eld of business anthropology." — Tomoko Hamada, Anthropological Forum

"Best Practice carves out a very interesting and revealing picture of the organisational-level behaviours for management consulting in many different aspects, including performance management, outsourcing, corporate social responsibility, training, and relations with clients." — Qian Jiwei, Asian Journal of Social Science

“The book should make for vital reading in graduate and undergraduate courses focusing on the anthropology of finance, cultural theories of value, ethical subject-making, and labor in post-Mao China.” 

— Michael M. Prentice, PoLAR

Best Practice speaks to many of the themes that interest scholars of cultural economy…. Chong is an anthropologist skilled in being both close to, and critically distant, from the field. But this should not underestimate the emotional and intellectual effort that has gone into this powerful book, which is a treasure trove of insights for scholars of cultural economy.”

— Michael Power, Journal of Cultural Economy

“Chong has created an interesting narrative about how management consultants operate in China. Her book presents new insights and opportunities for further research.” — Rui Torres de Oliveira, The China Journal

“Despite the significance of financialization in shaping global capitalism, its implementation and operationalization within corporations are often taken at face value. Scholars across disciplines have long recognized the need for an ethnographic account of management consulting to better understand how the cultural values of finance are translated into nonfinancial organizations. Kimberly Chong's ethnography of financialization in China is therefore compelling, insightful, and most welcome.” — Karen Ho, author of Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street

“Kimberly Chong provides a fascinating ethnography of the critical role that management consultants play in restructuring capitalist economic activity in China. Her book presents a convincing set of arguments both for how consultancy firms produce financialized subjects and why an ethical basis is needed for this work. It will provoke wide-ranging, interdisciplinary debates about how to assess financialization and its effects on everyday work.” — Lisa Rofel, coauthor of Fabricating Transnational Capitalism: A Collaborative Ethnography of Italian-Chinese Global Fashion


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Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kimberly Chong is Lecturer of Anthropology at University College London.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction  1
1. High Performers: The Making of Financialized Subjects  35
2. Evaluating Humans: Financial Rationality and Practices of Performance-Related Pay  64
3. Reducing Costs: Shared Service Centers, Labor, and the Outsourcing Rationale  91
4. Training Value: The Moral and Political Project of Selling Consultancy  110
5. Client Sites: Liminality, Modernity, and Performances of Expertise  131
6. Building a Paradise: Post-Mao Visions of Transformation  151
7. Conspicuous Ethicizing: Corporate Culture, CSR, and Corporate Subjectivity  172
Conclusion  193
Notes  203
References  221
Index  241
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0088-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0069-3
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