DISENFRANCHISED: The Rise and Fall of Industrial Citizenship in China

Colloquium | October 17 | 5-7:30 p.m. | 402 Barrows Hall

 Joel Andreas, Associate Professor of Sociology, Johns Hopkins University

 Cihan Tuğal, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley; Yan Long, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley; Marc Blecher, James Monroe Professor of Politics and East Asian Studies, Oberlin College

 Department of Sociology

Joel Andreas has written extensively on China. His award-winning book, The Rise of the Red Engineers (Stanford University Press, 2009), maps the trajectory and eventual merger of two hostile elites, arising from the birth of Communist China. It is based on a case study of Tsinghua University, the MIT of China, where inter-elite struggles played themselves out in dramatic fashion. His forthcoming book turns from the university to the industrial workplace. Turning Andrew Walder’s 1986 classic, Communist Neo-Traditionalism, on its head, Andreas studies the socialist enterprise from the standpoint of the expansion and contraction of industrial democracy. His account begins with the revolutionary seizure of power in 1949 and the installation of the “iron rice bowl” that organized every realm of worker life. Industrial citizenship was founded on secure job tenure, compressed inequalities, and extensive rights, but limited autonomy. Workers were expected not only to manage their own affairs on the shop floor, but also to actively participate in campaigns—initiated by Mao—to monitor and criticize malfeasance and abuse of power by factory party leaders. Recognizing that workers’ lack of autonomy hindered the effectiveness of these campaigns, Mao experimented with various methods of introducing autonomy, culminating in the rebel movement during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution. In reaction, the post-Mao market reforms – first slowly then drastically – dismantled the iron rice bowl with devastating consequences for job security, economic inequality, and workplace citizenship. Rising precarity has instigated widespread protest, increasingly drawn to Maoist ideals. Illustrated by his vivid and detailed worker biographies, Andreas offers a timely reappraisal of Communist China as seen from the hidden abode of production.


 Event poster, Excerpts from Disenfranchised (Chapters 1, 3, 5, 8 and 9)