Fragmented Control: Governing Contentious Labor Organizations in China

Governance, Forthcoming

34 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2016

See all articles by Diana Fu

Diana Fu

University of Toronto - Department of Political Science

Date Written: August 9, 2016

Abstract

How does an authoritarian state govern contentious civil society and what are the effects on grassroots mobilization? This article theorizes the relationship between repression and mobilization by examining the case of informal labor organizations in South China that threaten social stability. Findings based on eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork inside these organizations suggest that the central state’s mandate to maintain social stability is refracted through the interests and capabilities of local agencies. This results in “fragmented control”: divergent, even conflicting, forms of state governance over civil society. Local authorities work at cross-purposes by simultaneously repressing, co-opting, and neglecting underground organizing. Fragmented control generates political uncertainty on the part of activists and induces them to engage in “censored entrepreneurialism” — a set of tactical adaptations characterized by a mixture of self-censorship and entrepreneurial experimentation.

Keywords: Authoritarian Governance, Repression, Mobilization, Civil Society, China

Suggested Citation

Fu, Diana, Fragmented Control: Governing Contentious Labor Organizations in China (August 9, 2016). Governance, Forthcoming , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2820743

Diana Fu (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Department of Political Science ( email )

Sidney Smith Hall
100 St George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G3
Canada

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