Another 10,000 downloads

Another JCA paper has passed the 10,000 page views milestone.

Patriarchal Investments: Marriage, Dowry and the Political Economy of Development in Bangladesh” is by Sarah C. White Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath  It is an Open Access article.

The paper was published in 2017.

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Free downloads

Because of publisher delays in recent months, all delayed articles are being made free to download for a limited time. Readers can find these articles among “Latest Articles.”

A further 5 or 6 articles are still to be published and will also be free to download for a short time.

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10,000 downloads milestone

Rethinking Subaltern Resistance,” an article by editorial board member Uday Chandra has just passed the 10,000 views milestone. It is an Open Access article.

The paper was published in 2015, as the lead article in the special issue on subalterns in South Asia.

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A Permanent Labour Reserve in the South Pacific

“A Road With No End”: Making the South Pacific a Permanent Labour Reserve (DOI: 10.1080/ 00472336.2021.1975306) is a new JCA article by Scott MacWilliam of the Department of Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University in Canberra.

The abstract for the article is:

Commencing in the 1980s and picking up pace over the last two decades, there has been a systematic campaign to construct a specific form of labour market in the South Pacific. Unskilled and semi-skilled workers are recruited on short-term contracts to work in agricultural industries in Australia and New Zealand. While the employment is on a casual basis, with workers required to return to home countries upon the completion of contracts, there is nothing temporary about the intent behind what are termed labour mobility programmes. This article examines the conditions in countries from which workers are recruited, where non-development reigns. Continuing internationalisation of agriculture, logging, mining, oil and gas production has undercut whatever existed as late colonial policy to bring national development. Low rankings on international indicators of health and literacy, widespread unemployment and under-employment, characterise populations where majorities are reproduced for the forms of labour required by labour mobility programme recruiters, local and international. Continuous shortages of labour for fruit picking and packing in the region’s two largest economies are joined with relative surplus populations in nearby South Pacific countries. Temporary work is married to permanent accumulation on a road with no obvious end.

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Technology, Development and Nationalism in China

Hardening National Boundaries in a Globally-Connected World: Technology, Development and Nationalism in China” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2021.2001841) is a new article by Jun Zhang of the Department of Asian and International Studies at the City University of Hong Kong.

The abstract for the article is:

How do information and communication technologies (ICTs), which seemingly bring people to a boundless world, contribute to the reproduction of the imagined community of a nation? Challenging the conventional approach that sees ICTs as merely the channel through which nationalism or activism is expressed or mobilised, this article draws on anthropological and historical studies of technology to develop a conceptual mapping of the important factors that configure specific nation-bounded, ICT-centric socio-technical imaginaries. Taking as the entry point technological nationalism in the context of the Sino-American trade war in recent years and based on long-term fieldwork in the Pearl River Delta region, this ethnographic study explores how ICTs have become the lens through which educated professionals imagine China’s transition from sweat-shop modernity toward techno-modernity. This socio-technical imaginary is shaped by larger forces including the state discourse, political economy, material culture, and the platformised lifestyle, and mediated through work experience and consumer choices. Nationalism driven by this ICT-centric imaginary is subjected to state manipulation for the reproduction of political legitimacy. This study sheds light on larger conceptual questions on how ordinary citizens experience and make sense of ICTs and how such meaning-making processes sustain, challenge and reconfigure political processes.

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Book Launch: Precarious Asia

Tue. January 18 @ 7:00 pm8:30 pm (US Eastern Time)

Book cover for Precarious AsiaUNC Professor Arne Kalleberg, UNC Professor Emeritus Kevin Hewison, and Prof. Kwang-Yeong Shin of Chung-Ang University in Seoul, Republic of Korea, launch their latest book, Precarious Asia: Global Capitalism and Work in Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia.

Precarious Asia assesses the role of global and domestic factors in shaping precarious work and its outcomes in Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia as they represent a range of Asian political democracies and capitalist economies: Japan and South Korea are now developed and mature economies, while Indonesia remains a lower-middle income country.

With their established backgrounds in Asian studies, comparative political economy, social stratification and inequality, and the sociology of work, the authors yield compelling insights into the extent and consequences of precarious work, examining the dynamics underlying its rise. By linking macrostructural policies to both the mesostructure of labor relations and the microstructure of outcomes experienced by individual workers, they reveal the interplay of forces that generate precarious work, and in doing so, synthesize historical and institutional analyses with the political economy of capitalism and class relations. This book reveals how precarious work ultimately contributes to increasingly high levels of inequality and condemns segments of the population to chronic poverty and many more to livelihood and income vulnerability.

These three authors will be joined by Dr. Jenny Wai-Ling Chan (Hong Kong Polytechnic University) as a respondent to raise questions about the book, how it fits into the current state of social science, and why this is important for Asian Studies more broadly.

This event will take place over Zoom.

Click here to register for this event.

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Performance Pay and Representation for China’s Teachers

Yi Long

China’s Staff and Worker Representative Congress System and the Management of Teachers’ Performance Pay” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2021.1996620) is a new article by Yi Long of the School of Public Affairs and Administration, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu, Chris Nyland of the Monash Business School, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia and Xin Fan, also from the School of Public Affairs and Administration University of Electronic Science and Technology of China.

Chris Nyland

The abstract for the paper states:

Xi Jinping’s government has curtailed some of the ways that China’s workers formerly influenced the management of their workplaces while promoting other forms of rank-and-file participation in enterprise governance. Numerous studies have documented the forms of worker activism that have been curbed but few have discussed the state’s efforts to bolster alternative forms of participatory management.

Xin Fan

This article addresses this imbalance with evidence that the Staff and Worker Representative Congress system has been empowered under the Xi government in ways that amplify the voice of China’s workers within their enterprises. In advancing this argument, the example of school congresses and the determination of teachers’ performance pay is used. Based on interviews, the study suggests that congresses further the ability of teachers to deliberate, decide and manage the metrics that determine the distribution of performance pay and resolve milder forms of workplace grievances. The findings lend credence to commentators who have suggested the congress system may emerge as a substantial feature of China’s industrial relations system.

Employee participation, teachers’ performance pay, Staff and Worker Representative Congress, China

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Ho Chi Minh in Paris

After months of production delays, JCA is pleased that to announce the publication of “Between Theory and Praxis: Ho Chi Minh’s Parisian Networks, Intellectual Production and Evolving Thought” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2021.1972438).

Authored by JCA co-editor Geoffrey C. Gunn, the abstract states:

The writings of Ho Chi Minh have obviously gone through many officially approved refinements but, as this article queries, what were his prime intellectual influences during his formative years in France between mid-1919 and mid-1923, at least the most transformative period of his life? What were his signature publications during this period? How do they fit into the Marxist-Leninist lexicon and how do they translate into his “thought?” To answer these questions the article gives special attention to Ho Chi Minh’s research and writing in Paris of a manuscript that would only see publication in 1926 albeit, as discussed in a conclusion, one of several possible versions, yet in fact his magnum opus. As the article also sets down, no less important in charting his future direction were a broader spectrum of activities and influences in Paris, namely his little-studied liaisons with others from French colonies in forging anti-colonial, anti-imperialist networks and strategies.

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Coup, King, Crisis

As new publications trickle out from a much delayed production process, the latest is a book review by JCA editorial board member Michael Connors.

He reviews a collection edited by exiled Thai academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Coup, King, Crisis: A Critical Interregnum in Thailand, published by Yale Southeast Asia Studies as Monograph 68.

This book had quite a trip to publication, with the original publisher NUS Press accepting the book and processing through production to printing and then abruptly deciding to cancel the publishing contract in March 2020. As usual in authoritarian states, no explanation regarding the withdrawal was provided, but presumably under pressure from state and university authorities. NUS Press is a disgrace.

Thankfully, Yale took up the collection, leading to the review.

The book includes an Introduction and 14 chapters. While Connors notes the unevenness usually seen in collections, he assesses it “an important volume that sets a new tone for the future of scholarship in Thai studies. It is adventurous because the contributors have mostly written original, empirically based, theoretically pluralistic pieces that are mostly uninterested in policing disciplinary boundaries.”

Kevin Hewison’s Chapter 5 is described as a:

Chomsky-like skewering of King Vajiralongkorn. Vajiralongkorn’s natural uncouthness, to be polite, seems to have been exacerbated by the ‘maladies of several decades of waiting for a royal parent to die’ (119). There is a point to Hewison’s painful detailing of an unfortunate misfitting of personality and destiny: he disagrees with the idea that Thai politics from the late 1990s to the present has been dominated, even determined, by the politics of royal succession. Hewison traces the succession crisis to the 1970s, but not in terms of who would sit on the throne, but on how to manage the long wait for an ill-fitting heir apparent. The chapter is weighty with grotesque details regarding the consolidation of the heir’s power, touching on palace insiders’ imprisonment and alleged murder. Hewison’s chapter is likely to make for uncomfortable reading for those who thought King Bhumibol’s successor would be more democratically inclined.

Overall, Connors detects that the chapters “are recognisably about political morbidity,” with this engendering “a melancholy to the book that takes full flight in the contribution of the long-time scholar of lèse-majesté, David Streckfuss (Chapter 13)”:

Streckfuss provides an inventory of the mechanisms for state repression against speech, recounting episodes of surveillance by the military dictatorship in the post-2014 period to nullify resistance. ‘Absurdist’ is how he casts these things for what they do to the protagonists and victims. Some years ago, Streckfuss sought stories about self-censorship regarding the monarchy. His respondents testified the damage done by holding back (most, including this author, have done so). Streckfuss draws on those ‘confessions’ to explore the soul-damage, individual and public, that results. It says a lot that even the iconoclast Pavin reports to Streckfuss that he self-censors on the monarchy when the context seems right or that third party damage might result. The chapter’s conclusion is a fitting conclusion for the book: ‘The Thai military government and its manifestation was neither terrifying nor brutal, but rather absurdly banal and profoundly stupefying. The junta did not just seize power; it heralded a new age where Thai society will have little chance to communicate and might in time become paralysed’ (333).

Connors also adds an commentary on the path of contemporary social science, observing that “the volume eschews that kind of social science rigour that produces rigor-mortis that habitually stiffens everything it touches into rarified variables in the positivist hope that the human laboratory, controlled through research design, will yield generalisable laws.”

In contrast, this “volume speaks to the strained human spirit in the face of the bleakest of situations – a country run by dictators and usurpers.” While the contributors don’t guess at what will happen next, they do provide “multiple scenarios.”

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Economics, Science and Capitalism

JCA editorial board member Richard Westra has a new book out. Economics, Science and Capitalism is published by Routledge.

The linked website includes a preview PDF.

The abstract for the states:

Various strains of heterodox economics have sought, and largely failed, to dismount orthodoxy from its dominant position. This book critiques the criticizers, explaining why heterodox economics challenges have faltered, and then presents a coherent alternative paradigm of its own. This simultaneously exposes the vacuousness of neoclassical economics, the limitations of heterodox critique and the subverting of Karl Marx’s revolutionary economic thought by his own disciples.

The book draws in particular on two key intellectual traditions in making its arguments: critical realism and Marxism. From the refounding of critical realist philosophy of science in the hands of Roy Bhaskar, emphasis is placed upon the position that the ontological nature of the object of study determines the form of its possible science. However, in their theoretical constructions, neither orthodox economics nor heterodox economics problematizes the unique ontology of capitalism to the detriment of knowledge about the social world. The book maintains that a century of misthinking over Marx’s corpus has resulted in a missed opportunity to construct a paradigmatic alternative to orthodox economics. Drawing upon the tradition of the Japanese Uno approach to Marxism, and supported by Bhaskar’s development of critical realism as underlaborer for science, the book defends Marx’s writing in his monumental Capital as founding an economic science adequate to its ontological object of study. It then elaborates upon how Marxian economic theory exposes the hidden scourges of capitalism and what is required to unleash the potential of this theory for comprehensive analysis of capitalist vicissitudes, the study of economic life in precapitalist societies and the design of a desperately needed postcapitalist social order.

Broadening its appeal as it sets out to reclaim Marx’s revolutionary legacy, this original volume critically traverses writings in mainstream and heterodox economics, cutting edge philosophy of science and Marxian political economy and introduces readers to a reconstruction of Marx’s Capital engineered in Japan. This provocative book is essential reading for everyone interested in heterodox economics, critical realism, Marxian economics and critiques of capitalism.

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