Workers and Change in China: Resistance, Repression, Responsiveness, Manfred Elfstrom
In Workers and Change in China, Manfred Elfstrom develops a contextualized, process-based account to illustrate the cycle of worker resistance and state response in China. The core of this book is a set of comparative regional case studies based on the Pearl River Delta (PRD) and Yangtze River Delta (YRD) areas, where Elfstrom did extensive fieldwork interviewing workers, trade union officials, and labor NGOs, among others. His case studies uncover both similar and dissimilar patterns in terms of forms of resistance, bureaucratic incentives, and modes of control in the two regions.
The paired comparison starts with local economic, industrial structures. Elfstrom finds that, in YRD, high-tech industrial and local-based employment structures tend to engender worker resistance, which takes more contained and self-restrained forms. Faced with such contained forms of resistance, a wide range of state bureaucrats, including the police, trade union officials, and court staff, tend to employ an orthodox mode of control. That is, bureaucrats and officials play their own roles in a cautious and moderate way in response to worker resistance. In contrast, in PRD, where light industry and a migrant-based employment structure dominate, worker resistance takes more boundary-spanning and transgressive forms. This, in turn, propels the local state to employ a risk-taki
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