Unfinished proletarianization : self, anger, and class action among the second generation of peasant-workers in present-day China

Ngai PUN*, Huilin LU

*Corresponding author for this work

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

168 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

As a result of its open-door policies and 30 years of reform, China has become the "world's factory" and given rise to a new working class of rural migrant workers. This process has underlain a path of (semi-)proletarianization of Chinese peasant-workers: now the second generation is experiencing dagong, working for a boss, in industrialized towns and cities. What is the process of proletarianization of peasant-workers in China today? In what way does the path of proletarianization shape the new Chinese working class? Drawing on workers' narratives and our ethnographic studies in Shenzhen and Dongguan between 2005 and 2008, this study focuses on the subjective experiences of the second generation of dagongmei/zai, female migrant workers/male migrant workers, who have developed new forms of power and resistance unknown to the previous generation of workers. Did the pain and trauma experienced by the first generation of dagong subjects gradually evolve into the anger and resentment that has conditioned the labor strikes and class actions of the second generation? In short, what continuity and change can we observe in the life struggles of this new working class? Is the second generation of dagong subjects compelled to take action as a result of long-endured pain and anger? Self, anger, and collective action among the new working class propel the narrative described in this article.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-519
Number of pages27
JournalModern China
Volume36
Issue number5
Early online date8 Jul 2010
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Anger
  • Chinese peasant-workers
  • Class action
  • Proletarianization
  • Working-class formation

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