RURAL MIGRANT WORKERS’ AGENCY IN CAPITALIST PRODUCTION IN CHINA
Hill Collins, Patricia H
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China’s recent economic success largely depends on making more than 100 million rural migrants work in the “world’s factory”. This dissertation investigates why rural migrants work in factories under unappealing conditions from their subjective perspectives. While the literature emphasizes state repression and factory management control, this dissertation proposes that rural migrant workers approach factory work through complicated agency, with agency being defined as the ideas, thoughts, considerations, perceptions, and plans that rural migrant workers bring to factory work. Based on ten months of ethnography in two small manufacturing factories in East China that hired approximately 160 rural migrant workers, this dissertation discusses how the rural migrant workers participated in factory production with thoughts and values that had developed from various sources in their general social lives. The findings have implications for studying and theorizing capital-labor relations in particular and power relations involving domination and exploitation in general.