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From Subsistence Politics To Rights Politics:the Transitional Logic Of Peasants’ Political Behaviors

Posted on:2017-04-21Degree:DoctorType:Dissertation
Country:ChinaCandidate:K Y WangFull Text:PDF
GTID:1226330485970728Subject:Political Theory
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Current research on peasants’ political behaviors since the foundation of People’s Republic of China categorizes into two major phases. One focuses on grassroots peasants’ reactions to state power’s penetration into countryside before the Reform and Opening. The other mainly pays attention to peasants’ resisting behaviors since 1990s, which includes investigating causes of peasants’ resisting behaviors in early days and recently turns to the whole events and process of peasants’ rights defending behaviors. The merits of these kinds of research will lead to a clear inspect into peasants’ political behaviors in each phases, however, it will do nothing beneficial to the transition of peasants’political behavior in different phases.Utilizing analyzing method of "macro-history with micro-actions", this dissertation, choses a village in JiaShan county of Zhejiang province as site for field work and consults with gazetteers, archives, official documents and some important presses, is dedicated to shed ing light on how the macro-political and social changes have brought peasants’ different kinds of political behaviors in micro-circumstances, which are linked to a more broad social background, so as to show their social and political consequences. As a chronic research for a relatively long period, this dissertation will not document peasants’ every trivial behavior, but emphasize on the impact of several historical events with great importance on peasants’ political behaviors, and the feedback of peasants’ political behaviors on political and social environment, such as changes of public policies. The dissertation focuses on the following subjects:one is the macro environment changes for peasants’ political behaviors in different periods:the other is what kinds of peasants’ political behaviors brought by those changes:another is how peasants’ political behaviors lead to new transformation in macro circumstances. Finally, the dissertation proposes that the logic of peasants’ political behaviors is transiting from "for subsistence" to "for rights", and will investigate the causes for the transition and the political implication of the transition for China.Historically, peasants’ behaviors in Youxin village were mainly modeled by subsisting pressures. Peasants’ in Youxin village were painstaking for subsistence because of the chronically natural disasters, undeveloped agricultural production conditions, unreasonable land system and chaotic political situation. After the foundation of PRC, with the victory of Chinese communist revolution and foundation of the new regime, the Party, leading the peasants, launched large scale land reform in the countryside, and realized poor peasants’ dream for "tillers with lands" for the first time, and stimulated their enthusiastic for work, and smoothed peasants’ subsisting pressures preliminarily. However, after the short time honeymoon between the Party and peasants, the agricultural collectivization, Great Leap Forward and communization followed. Especially during the communization period, peasants in Youxin village, as in other villages all over the country, also were threatened by starvation and even death. Facing with increasingly severe subsisting pressures, peasants in Youxin village reacted by those now well-known behaviors, such as "anti-behaviors" or "weapons of the weak". Peasants’ resistance to collectivization brought into some changes for agricultural system in 1950s, while this kind of changes declined in 1960s, and there were no essential changes for agricultural policies in Mao’s Time.Fundamental transition began because of the reform and opening. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, For Deng Xiaoping’s support, "contract to household" (then household responsibility) came to renascence, and peasants regained land in a new style, which brought the second time honeymoon between the state and peasants. The endogenous defects in communes led to the inevitable falling of their organization authority, which made them finally dismantle. Reform in agricultural operating system and changes in social organization structures of countryside restored peasants’ enthusiasm for production, improved agricultural production effectiveness and peasants’ life, and finally their subsisting conditions. Dismantling of the communes and shrinking of political power released more space for society, while they also put the village public affairs supported by communes into plights. Cadres in Youxin village showed solicitude to public affairs after "contract to household", but the poverty-stricken collective economy provided them nothing to cook despite of their skill. As a result, peasants started their practice of self-governance. For example, they collected money and labors to build bridges and roads, which offset the space brought by the dismantling of communes. Peasants’ self-governance practice was responded officially in the late 1980s, and self-governance system came into being, which empowered peasants for the first time.To some extent, political empowerment brought by self-governance can be seen as a "having no alternative" behavior of state power’s shrink from the countryside, which cannot put a clear-cut between state power and peasants’ rights. Lacking in securities for peasants’rights leads to mountainous rights defending actions. In 1990s, peasants’ rights defending actions targeted mainly to anti-tax and fees. The reason lied in fact that the township government assigned tax collecting tasks to village cadres but paid no attention to their methods used for collection, which provided the village cadres a convenient way to impinging on peasants’rights and lead to peasants’ resistance inevitably. For this period, compared to those rights defending actions mainly for heavy taxes or fees occurred in other places, peasants in Youxin village vacillated between taxes and fees in early 1990s. They approved the state stipulated agricultural taxes, but resisted those added fees in many ways. Relatively speaking, peasants’ political behaviors in this period seemed to be more restrained. In the late 1990s and early 2000s. peasants in Youxin started times of petition because of their rights entrenched in land expropriation and house demolition, which finally led to petitioning Beijing. National wide peasants’ rights defending actions outside of the formal system weakened their sense of political identity, which led to further adjustment of agricultural policies, such as abolishment of the agricultural tax existed 2600 years in China. Also with reaffirmation of peasants’ land rights mitigated the intensive relations between state and peasants.Changes in agriculture policies, such as tax abolishment, aroused peasants’ sense of political identity toward the Party and the regime again. However, getting rid of subsistence pressures absolutely made peasants plea for more. Only more political empowerment can further improve peasants’ political integration. With the development of rural collective economy, village cadres have more and more resources to manipulate, and peasants ask for more democratic rights to curb cadres’ behaviors. National widely speaking, grassroots democracy in the countryside experienced a warped course from participation to election. In Youxin village, grassroots democracy has improved from election to supervision, and further progressed to participation and consultation. Endowing peasants the rights to supervise village elites and participate in public affairs enhanced peasants’ recognition and trust to village public authorities, and their sense of belonging to the village community. These improvement furthered peasants’ political integration, which recovered the order in Youxin village ever with great chaos.Examining village Youxin’s history since the foundation of PRC, it can be said that, different from the wise asserting subsistence appeals dominating peasants’ behaviors, the logic of peasants’ political behaviors has experienced a transition from "for subsistence" to "for rights". The main causes of this transition includes four aspects:economic development since the reform and opening terminated peasants’ subsistence politics; system transformation, mainly characterized by state power retreats from countryside, stimulated peasants’ rights consciousness; changes in peasants’ daily life space, especially formation of public space in countryside, precipitated peasants’ rights defending actions; improvement of education and development of mass media provided information far beyond the village, which gave much assistance for peasants’ rights politics. There are three positive impacts on China’s political future induced by the transition of peasants’ political behaviors logic: for the macro-level, peasants’ rights politics forward the transformation of the Party and state power’s political legitimacy base. For the middle level, the transition will promote the transformation of grassroots governance structure in the countryside. For peasant individuals, their citizen capabilities will get practiced and improved by the rights defending actions.
Keywords/Search Tags:Subsistence Politics, Rights Politics, Peasants, Political Behavior
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