The Absence of State Role in the Labor Reproduction of Migrant Workers

Ren YAN, Ngai PUN, Jeffrey KELLER (Translator)

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

5 Citations (SciVal)


This article attempts to analyze the logic of labor reproduction of migrant workers and its significance to political economics from the point of view of relationships between industrial capital and labor (re-)production, using the main model of the labor reproduction of urban Chinese migrant workers as an example—the dormitory labor regime. In particular, we explore the absence of state role and the lack of collective consumption for migrant workers brought about by capital and informal social networks dealing with the problem of labor reproduction on their own, and analyze the social, economic, and cultural consequences brought about by this situation. We believe that the use of migrant labor power and its reproductive process are dialectically complementary. If the two cannot be unified in terms of spatial and social significance, there will be no full proletarianization of migrant workers. In contemporary China, the state of "semiproletarianization" of migrant workers brought about by state absence from the labor reproduction process has already to some extent foretold the emergence of urban and social crises.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-77
Number of pages27
JournalChinese Sociology and Anthropology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Translation from the Chinese text: “Nongmingong laodongli zaishengchan de guojia quewei” (农民工劳动力再生产中的国家缺位来源).

The authors acknowledge the RGC grant “Making a New Working Class: A Study of Collective Actions in a Dormitory Labor Regime of South China” (2007–2009). This study is also part of the result of the 2005 national philosophy and social science major invitational project “Studies on the Problems of Migrant Workers in the Urbanization Process” (05&ZD034); it received funding from the Sun Yat-sen University “Stage 2 985” Public Management and Social Development Philosophy and Social Sciences Innovation and Research Base.


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