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Social Space and Governance in Urban China
The Danwei System from Origins to Reform

David Bray


296 pp.
1 table, 12 figures.
ISBN: 9780804750387
Cloth $67.50

Author Info

"Bray makes his case quite admirably. The argument is tightly woven. The framework is consistently applied. The conclusions are illuminating."—H-Net Reviews

"[A] meticulously crafted piece of research....a highly stimulating and important book....It is a fine example of the integration of social science theories with China studies..."—The China Journal

"...this book is an important contribution to the literature, a leading example of scholarship on governmentality, and one that should inspire scholars to conduct further studies of the danwei and related institutions with spatial characteristics in urban China."—The China Review

"Social Space and Governance in Urban China is a fascinating probe into the origins of the socio-spatial form of urban planning and governance embodies in the danwei; Bray's analysis is thought-provoking and a welcome contribution to existing scholarship....this study is a highly insightful read and an important contribution to current debates on the complex interconnections between modernity, space and social change."—IIAS Newsletter

"This book is an engaging and compelling read, much richer than it would ever be possible to summarize in a short review. It stands out as a well-researched and highly sophisticated theoretical work, and an insightful contribution to the analysis on the nature of the Chinese danwei."—The China Quarterly

"Bray offers a very important contribution in this wonderful book...His explicit and consistent Foucault-informed analysis is illuminating, powerful, and very accessible."—Urban Studies Journal

Centered on the urban workplace, the danwei (workunit) has been the fundamental social and spatial unit of urban China under socialism. Not only was it the source of employment, wages, and other material benefits for the vast majority of urban residents, it was also the institution through which the urban population was housed, organized, regulated, policed, educated, trained, protected, and surveyed. Furthermore, as the basic unit of urban society, each danwei became a community, providing its members with identity, a "face," and social belonging.

With particular focus on the link between spatial forms and social organization, this book traces the origins and development of this critical institution up to the present day. Recent economic restructuring has seen the danwei lose its dominant role, yet its presence still influences the possibilities for urban transformation. Moreover, the author argues, the new institutions emerging in its place display important characteristics of the old danwei system.

David Bray is Lecturer in Chinese Politics at the East Asian Institute, Faculty of Oriental Studies, Cambridge University.

Subject links:
    Politics — Asia
    Sociology — Urban Studies
    Asian Studies

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