Re: [OPE] Class structure: China

From: B.R.Bapuji <>
Date: Fri Apr 29 2011 - 10:44:49 EDT

Dear Michael, Please see the link given below. The article which had originally appeared in 2003 in Telugu and which was translated and published in English in 2004 [in an independent Marxist journal called FRONTIER] may indirectly indicate some clues to the question that you raised. We [Ranganayakamma and I ]do not claim that it substitutes the answer to your question. If you don't find it relevant and not very useful, you may kindly ignore. Bapuji   B.R.Bapuji, Professor, Centre for Applied Linguistics & Translation Studies [CALTS], University of Hyderabad, Central University post office, HYDERABAD-500 046. (Phone: 040-23133655,23133650 or 23010161). Residence address: 76, Lake-side Colony, Near Durgam Cheruvu, [End of Road opp:Madapur Police Station], Jubilee Hills post, Hyderabad-500033. (Phone: 040-23117302)   ________________________________ From: Michael Webber <> To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list <> Sent: Fri, April 29, 2011 7:51:02 PM Subject: [OPE] Class structure: China dear colleagues: i am seeking some help.  the problem is this. first observation:  by all measures, state-owned corporations in china are growing, and they command some of the big sectors of the economy.  they show no signs of going away, even if their share of total output has been falling since the transformation of chinese society started 30-odd years ago.  these corporations are profit-making (in intention, anyway) and at least some of those profits are invested in expansion of the corporations.  they hire workers in a market, workers whose only asset is their labour power.  the implication is that these firms are capitalist.  another implication is that the chinese state is a capitalist. second observation: the chinese state also has all the other functions of a state to perform -- generalised defence of the society's ability to reproduce itself, including mediation of capital - labour disputes.  the implication is that the chinese state may find itself with conflicting roles, when it acts as capitalist and as state. third observation: almost all the analyses of state policies towards the economy follow orthodox lines, and assume that the state is acting only in traditional roles, rather than having also the role of being a capitalist.  these analyses typically regard the state as a party-state, either acting as an independent agent seeking, within the limits of politics, to advance the cause of 'development' or 'welfare', or acting in response to the CCP's desire to remain in power (so trying to make policies that will reduce / control potential sources of protest).  surrounding the state in these analyses are the activities of individual cadres, some of whom are corrupt.  apart from their general conservative orthodoxy, the implication is that these analyses ignore the state as capitalist.  the implication also is that analyses of class and its role in shaping politics is downplayed or ignored. fourth observation: the changes wrought to the chinese economy over the past 30-odd years and the developments that have accompanied them have caused the structure of classes to change.  this seems obvious to me.  the implication is that the class pressures on politics therefore have changed.  the further implication is that the directions of 'reform' therefore have changed over the course of the reform period. now all that is brief (the alternative is a large book), and some of it is obvious or unsurprising to marxists, if not to the more orthodox among us.  however, given all this background, i am trying to develop an argument about some of the places in which the effects of those changing class structures can be identified.  one such is the privatisation of collective enterprises in suzhou municipality in the late 1990s: i argue that a group of local state officials and managers of collective enterprises essentially colluded to privatise them.  this group of officials and managers had become a class, identified by common interests and by the recognition of those interests; created and mobilised by the growth (and form of growth) of the period 1978-1995.  i have in evidence of this: data on rates of surplus value (rising during that period, and since); some biographies of key individuals in the process. the problem i have and the help i seek is: what do we know about class structures in places where the state is also a capitalist?  what do we know about the conflicts between the roles of the state in such places?  what do we know about class formation and politics in such places?  by 'know' here is suppose that i mean theory; and i mean empirical work in other societies, such as e europe and the former ussr.  i am really looking for some help in thinking about how to theorise what is going on, how to compare the specifics of china to other cases, how to develop theories that have been developed in other literatures than the ones i know, which are really china-centric. any help would be much appreciated; and, of course, acknowledged.  thanks in advance: michael -- Michael Webber Professorial Fellow Department of Resource Management and Geography The University of Melbourne Mail address: 221 Bouverie Street, Carlton, VIC 3010 Phone: 0402 421 283 Email:

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