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Labour in the Chinese internet industries

Xia, Bingqing (2014) Labour in the Chinese internet industries. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

Cultural production and labour have been the subject of considerable research in recent years. But relatively little research has paid attention to workers in the internet industries, especially the Chinese internet industries. This thesis uses ethnographic research to examine the quality of the working life of Chinese internet workers and asks: What is working life like in the Chinese internet industries? And how do workers themselves understand and evaluate their experiences of working life? This thesis examines three main inter-related issues in order to answer these questions. First, the work quality of these workers is evaluated via a framework consisting of work effort or intensity, autonomy and security. Empirical data, collected from three months’ covert observation in a Chinese internet company and two periods of interviews in the industries, shows inequalities and injustices in working life. Second, the social class of internet workers provides a crucial context for understanding their working conditions. Chinese internet workers are understood as part of the lower middle class in contemporary Chinese society. They face ‘proletarianisation’: they suffer a worsening of their working conditions and their collaborative acts of agency show close relationships with those of the working class. Thirdly, the agency of these workers is analysed, including their negotiation with, and resistance to, the state and businesses. A key argument is that proletarianisation is the result of exploitation, which is understood from a neo-Marxist perspective here: the bureaucratic capitalist class appropriates the labour efforts of the working class and skills of the middle class through ownership of means of production and exercise of the political authority to allocate these resources. The notion of exploitation is a fundamental mechanism to understand the quality of working life in the industries, as it explains why workers suffer poor working conditions. Workers’ acts of agency explain why workers still work in the industries, despite such poor conditions, and how they strive to improve them. This research also argues that such acts indicate a ‘bottom up’ force in contemporary China, which suggests the potential to create better working conditions and a better China.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
ISBN: 978-0-85731-905-0
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Media and Communication (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.634300
Depositing User: Leeds CMS
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2015 11:56
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2018 09:50
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7888

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