Authoritarian innovations in labor governance: The case of Cambodia

Michele Ford, Michael Gillan, Kristy Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Authoritarian states face a fundamental tension in managing labor conflict. Too much repression can be read as a violation of workers' human rights, but too little undermines their structures of control. In this article, we shift focus from the overt repression of workers and unions to consider how states manage labor dissent through governance reform. Using Cambodia as our case, we examine the government's use of a series of "authoritarian innovations" to reassert control over labor governance mechanisms once dominated by international actors. Through an analysis of the shifting terrain of reform in the areas of labor legislation, minimum wage-setting, and disputes resolution, we show how institutional pacification has contained labor in ways that have served to defend state legitimacy and protect accumulation. We conclude by discussing the implications of these novel tactics-which signal the state is neither static nor predictable-for our understanding of labor governance under authoritarianism.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalGovernance: an international journal of policy, administration, and institution
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Dec 2020

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