Gary Zhao is a fourth year PhD candidate in sociology at Stanford. As a Stanford Graduate Fellow, he specializes in economic sociology. His dissertation tackles the question of the contemporary meaning of work and leisure in the U.S. and China. Prior to coming to Stanford, Gary was educated in England, where he read sociology at Oxford and studied management at London School of Economics. He also holds a B.A. in economics from China.
Conventional wisdom considers poverty as the lack of money. However, time poverty has become a new form of poverty around the globe. Research shows that the United States. and China, the world’s two largest economies, work one of the longest hours respectively in the developed and the developing world. This phenomenon creates a theoretical puzzle while raising widespread public concerns. Contrary to economists’ prediction, technological advancement has not afforded us with more leisure, but instead we find ourselves living in a world busier than ever before. Time stress from work and even at leisure has created a range of serious problems that are threatening our individual wellbeing as well as our family, the economy, and the society at large. To this end, my dissertation tackles the time poverty problem by refocusing on the cultural meaning of work. Utilizing a combination of in-depth interviews, participant observations, and archival studies, my dissertation aims to 1) uncover and compare the contemporary national repertoires of the cultural meaning of work in the United States and China; and 2) understand the wider structural and cultural forces that shape these cultural repertoires. The results from this project will contribute to the sociology of work, cultural studies, entrepreneurship, and social stratification. The findings of this study also have wide implications to poverty, public health, social innovation, and human wellbeing.