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Labour and the state in China's passive revolution

By Kevin Gray


This article begins by engaging with some recent attempts to bring the study of the agency of labour into analyses of global capitalism, and argues that these approaches fail to capture the ways in which labour movements impact upon state strategies and, in turn, how this affects the spatial and temporal nature of global capitalist restructuring. Through adopting Antonio Gramsci's concept of passive revolution, the article shows that whilst China has witnessed a significant degree of spontaneous and unorganised labour unrest, the state has been highly active in seeking to forestall the emergence of a politically conscious organised labour movement in ways that have important implications for the mode of China's insertion into the international division of labour. In accordance with Gramsci's framework, this 'revolution from above' should be understood within the framework and the specificity of the international states system. Labour struggles, class formation and the role of the state in these processes are conditioned both by geopolitical rivalry and by the demonstrative effects of earlier cases of successful industrialisation, as well as by examples of resultant labour struggles

Publisher: SAGE Publications
Year: 2010
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