Demobilizing the Law for Control: The Life Cycle of Labor Disputes in China

Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, 2:304:00 p.m. • UC Irvine School of Law, LAW 3500 (Map)

A Public Lecture by Yang Su


This lecture details the study of labor disputes in China through interviews of migrant worker petitioners. After performing statistical analyses on a sample 225 disputes, we found that less than 10 present of the cases evolved into the formal legal channels (arbitration or adjudication), and less than 5 percent of the cases involved street protest. The majority of cases were resolved or partially resolved through limited intervention by the government agency. Being processed through legal channels in fact decreases the likelihood of obtaining a positive outcome. While failing to reach the top of the “dispute pyramid,” the majority of disputes were assisted by third-party interventions, and in many cases resulted in redress that is favorable to the initial petitioner. These findings suggest that the Chinese system strives to channel labor disputes away from the legal system for the purpose of control.

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About the Speaker

Yang SuYang Su obtained his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 2003 and is now Associate Professor of Sociology at UC Irvine. He is author of Collective Killings in Rural China during the Cultural Revolution (Cambridge 2011). A social movement scholar, he has recently begun to publish research papers in law and society journals, including “ Street as Courtroom: State Accommodation of Labor Protest in South China” (Law & Society Review 2010), “ Do the ‘Haves’ Come out ahead in Shanghai Courts?” (Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 2013), “Above the Roof, Beneath the Law: Perceived Justice behind Disruptive Tactics of Migrant Wage Claimants in China” (Law & Society Review 2013)

The Long Institute Lecture Series on Chinese Law, Business and Society

The Long Institute Lecture Series