Chinese workers’ history: passive minds docile bodies

Elly Leung, Donella Caspersz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Purpose: This paper aims to describe an exploratory study that has sought to understand how an institutionalised docility rather than resistance has been created in the minds of Chinese workers by the Chinese State. The study proposes that this docility has been crucial in enabling China to become a world leading economic powerhouse. Design/methodology/approach: The paper draws on Foucault’s concept of governmentality and uses the genealogical method to examine the historical events that have shaped the mentalities of today’s Chinese workers. Original interviews (n = 74) with everyday workers across industries and locations illustrate this. Findings: It was found that the utilisation of centuries-long Confucian hierarchical rules by successive regimes has created a cumulative effect that has maintained workers docility and their willingness to submit themselves to poor working conditions that – ultimately – benefit the Chinese State and business, though this is at their expense. This finding is in juxtaposition to current research that claim that their working conditions are fostering a rising consciousness and resistance among Chinese workers. Originality/value: This paper provides a novel explanation for why Chinese workers accept their poor working conditions and thus critiques current perspectives about Chinese worker resistance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Management History
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Jun 2019

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Workers
Mind-body
History
Working Conditions
Working conditions
Governmentality
China
Willingness
Industry
Mentality
Juxtaposition
Methodology
Economics
Confucian
Consciousness
Originality
Exploratory study
Cumulative effects
Expenses
Design methodology

Cite this

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Chinese workers’ history : passive minds docile bodies. / Leung, Elly; Caspersz, Donella.

In: Journal of Management History, 19.06.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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