Insurgency and Institutionalization: The Polanyian Countermovement and Chinese Labor Politics
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Why is it that in the nearly 10 years since the Chinese central government began making symbolic and material moves towards class compromise that labor unrest has expanded greatly? In this article I reconfigure Karl Polanyi's theory of the countermovement to account for recent developments in Chinese labor politics. Specifically, I argue that countermovements must be broken down into two constituent but intertwined "moments": the insurgent moment that consists of spontaneous resistance to the market, and the institutional moment, when class compromise is established in the economic and political spheres. In China, the transition from insurgency to institutionalization has thus far been confounded by conditions of "appropriated representation," where the only worker organizations allowed to exist are those within the state-run All China Federation of Trade Unions. However, in drawing on two case studies of strikes in capital-intensive industries in Guangdong province, I show that the relationship between insurgency and institutionalization shifted between 2007 and 2010.
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China; labor; ACFTU; Polanyi; social movements; unions
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Required Publisher Statement: © Springer. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. Final version published as: Friedman, E. (2013). Insurgency and institutionalization: The Polanyian countermovement and Chinese labor politics. Theory and Society, 42(3), 295-327.