Anxious Wealth is an exceptionally articulate and insightful examination of elite businessmen in Chengdu, China. The book opens with an examination of China's shifting political economy under Deng Xiaoping's new economic policies. These reforms created room for a new class of entrepreneurs to emerge—an elite group of men who are the subject of Osburg's study. Osburg then explores the ways that womanizing becomes both a status symbol and good business sense for men who seek favors from other men. Osburg also uses his case study to explore generalized reciprocity (guanxi) networks. The Confucian-inspired idea that friends help friends leads to corruption and nepotism, which, for these particular men, decidedly trumps abstract notions of a rule of law.

Osburg then examines conspicuous consumption and status. This includes social pressures that result in remarkably standardized consumption practices from which the men cannot deviate. The men frequently voice a feeling of...

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