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From insurgency to movement: an embryonic labor movement undermining hegemony in South China

Li, Chunyun ORCID: 0000-0001-5909-0889 (2021) From insurgency to movement: an embryonic labor movement undermining hegemony in South China. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 74 (4). 843 - 874. ISSN 0019-7939

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0019793920906401


This article provides a new analysis of Chinese labor politics. Most scholars suggest that China has no labor movement because Chinese labor protests are apolitical, cellular, and short-lived, and thus inconsistent with the properties of social movements identified in the political process model. By contrast, the author draws on Antonio Gramsci’s ideas regarding movements undermining hegemony and on ethnographic and archival research to demonstrate that the activities of movement-oriented labor nongovernmental organizations (MLNGOs) coupled with associated labor protests since 2011 constitute the embryo of a counterhegemonic labor movement. MLNGOs have reworked the hegemonic labor law system to undermine the regime’s legal fragmentation of workers, nurtured worker leaders who speak for and represent migrant workers to temporarily substitute for impotent workplace unions, and developed alternative organizational networks of labor organizing that challenged the union’s monopoly. This incipient counterhegemonic movement persisted several years after state repression in late 2015 but was curtailed by another wave of repression in January 2019. The very severity of state repression suggests that a movement countering hegemony has been formed.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 The Author
Divisions: Management
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Date Deposited: 27 Aug 2019 14:15
Last Modified: 30 May 2024 04:27

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