This article shows that the construction of the notion of dignified laborer during the Chinese New Culture Movement (1915–24) was not simply a reversal of preexisting social hierarchy that placed the mental laborers above the manual laborers but rather a complex and profound process of identity formation that created dynamic equalization between the national and the global, mental laborers and manual laborers, as well as men and women. Through reading a series of cultural and literary works, this article shows that the dignified laborer was an inclusive modern identity that gained traction during the New Culture Movement, when the Chinese intellectuals sought ways to foster national solidarity, realize the full potential of humanity, facilitate intersubjective understanding, and mend social divisions. As a result, this was a period when Chinese people from all walks vied to become laborers with dignity, amidst a rising democratic culture of reciprocal equal recognition.

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