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Title: The making of labour precariousness in post-1949 China
Author: Feng, Xiaojun
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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If Marxists are right, why did Mao's China witness a prevalence of precarious labour? If mainstream modernization theorists are right, why has post-Mao China seen a growth of precarious workers? In the light of these paradoxes, this thesis asks: what are the mechanisms that generate labour precariousness in post-1949 China? Drawing upon insights from Marxism, mainstream economics, Polanyianism, and the theory of primitive socialist accumulation, this thesis develops a theoretical framework to study the origins of labour precariousness in post-1949 China. Briefly, exploitation and exclusion are two major mechanisms that generate labour precariousness. Both the state and the market can exercise these mechanisms. Both mechanisms operate in spheres of production and social reproduction. By applying this framework to the analyses of data mainly collected from archives and fieldwork, this thesis has the following findings. Under the exclusion-centred precarization regime in Mao' era, to reconcile the contradiction between primitive accumulation and political legitimacy, the state built up a system of social exclusion. One's location in this system determined one's conditions of precariousness. The rigidity of this system was primarily mediated by the alternation between centralization and decentralization of industrialization, as well as by employment policies and labour movements. Under the exploitation-centred precarization regime in reform China, the previous social exclusion system has been curtailed and the extent of exploitation, in spheres of both production and social reproduction, defines one's conditions of precariousness. The magnitude of exploitation has been modulated primarily by labour regulation, and by labour movements as well. On top of these findings, this thesis also extends the extant literature by unveiling the continuities and discontinuities of labour precariousness practices and mechanisms in post-1949 China, and by contributing to two debates in this field. It shows that in the Chinese experience precarization is a process of proletarian unification and formalization is a limited remedy for labour precariousness.
Supervisor: Murphy, Rachel Sponsor: Swire Educational Trust ; University of Oxford
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sociology