Berkeley Sociology Forum with Joel Andreas. DISENFRANCHISED: The Rise and Fall of Industrial Citizenship in China

Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall


The Rise and Fall of Industrial Citizenship in China

JOEL ANDREAS, AssociateProfessor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University, will present his forthcoming book, Disenfranchised, with responses from Cihan Tuğal, Yan Long, and Marc Blecher

Joel Andreas has written extensively on China. His award-winning book, The Rise of the Red Engineers (Stanford University Press, 2009), maps the trajectory and eventual merger of two hostile elites, arising from the birth of Communist China. It is based on a case study of Tsinghua University, the MIT of China, where inter-elite struggles played themselves out in dramatic fashion.  His forthcoming book turns from the university to the industrial workplace. Turning Andrew Walder’s 1986 classic, Communist Neo-Traditionalism, on its head, Andreas studies the socialist enterprise from the standpoint of the expansion and contraction of industrial democracy. His account begins with the revolutionary seizure of power in 1949 and the installation of the “iron rice bowl” that organized every realm of worker life. Industrial citizenship was founded on secure job tenure, compressed inequalities, and extensive rights, but limited autonomy. Workers were expected not only to manage their own affairs on the shop floor, but also to actively participate in campaigns—initiated by Mao—to monitor and criticize malfeasance and abuse of power by factory party leaders. Recognizing that workers’ lack of autonomy hindered the effectiveness of these campaigns, Mao experimented with various methods of introducing autonomy, culminating in the rebel movement during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution. In reaction, the post-Mao market reforms – first slowly then drastically – dismantled the iron rice bowl with devastating consequences for job security, economic inequality, and workplace citizenship. Rising precarity has instigated widespread protest, increasingly drawn to Maoist ideals. Illustrated by his vivid and detailed worker biographies, Andreas offers a timely reappraisal of Communist China as seen from the hidden abode of production.                  

Excerpts from Disenfranchised (Chapters 1, 3, 5, 8 and 9) can be found at

Cihan Tuğal is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. Author of several books on Turkish and Middle Eastern politics, his latest book is Caring for the Poor: Islamic and Christian Benevolence in a Liberal World(Routledge, 2017).  

Yan Long is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of the forthcoming book, tentatively titled Side Effects: The Transnational Doing and Undoing of AIDS Politics in China that builds upon her award-winning dissertation.

Marc Blecher is James Monroe Professor of Politics and East Asian Studies at Oberlin College and the author of a number of books on China, including China Against the Tides: Restructuring Through Revolution, Radicalism and Reform (Third Edition. New York: Continuum, 2009)