A Close Examination on Involution’s Origin, Structure, and Impact Open Access

Zhou, Yujie (Spring 2022)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/vt150k42b?locale=en


Although involution was a newly reformed word, it has shifted its meaning from originally describing the stagnant ecological progress in Indonesia's rice cultivation to defining today's common social phenomenon that most people are practicing. While Clifford Geertz and Philip C Huang discussed involution in an agricultural view, I believe that such a phenomenon was generated as a value system born from the capitalist system and ourselves. This thesis examines the recent case of involution and argues from a perspective of seeing it as a value system. First, I focused on how scholars from different fields evaluate involution, trace the origin, and weigh its structure based on various scholarly evidence. Then, I propose a combining concept that involution is an exception in human history as the core principle weight on the essence of a sort of internal consumption waste as it repeats without innovation. Later, I concluded that involution was catalyzed by a unique interpretation or shift of capitalism through our inner self due to the value system created through changes in time. Finally, I propose several possible solutions for people to jump out of involution and construct such solutions based on internal and external approaches. 

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Origin of Involution 3

Geertz's Agricultural Involution 3

Involution as A Self-Conquering Process 7

Combining the two: My Thoughts 10

External Structure of Involution 14

Marx's means of production and capitalist competition 14

Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, Louis Althusser 17

Internal Structure of Involution 23

Hegel Master and Slaves 23

Mark Elvin's High-level Equilibrium Trap; A trap in the current Status Quo 25

My interpretation of Involution 28 

Involution as an exception in Human History 28 

Lacking reverence to life/job 30

Unification Vs. Diversification 31

Capitalism might not be the only faulty party 34

Resolve Involution 35

Possibly Systemic Change 35

Possible Self Change 40

Boggs' Dialectical thinking of flowing within the change 40

Brown's self-change based on ten emergent strategies 44

Bibliography 47

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