Sociological forum (Fall 2020-2021): The converging anti-democratic workplace in the United States and China

By Dr. Jedidiah Kroncke, HKU

Tue 24 Nov 2020


Over the last forty years, the economic development of the United States and China became increasingly intertwined. Today, recriminations are made with growing vigor in the United States regarding assumptions about the relationship between democracy and markets that were used to justify this growing interdependence between the economies of two nations with quite distinct political systems. The current content of these recriminations concerning economic growth and political democratization elide completely that the integration of American and Chinese economic activity was made possible in large part through a converging consensus on the ademocratic, at best, and anti-democratic, at worst, nature of the modern workplace in both countries. This convergence was facilitated by the mutual development of contractarian norms of employment law and authoritarian norms of corporate governance which eliminated both traditional socialist and republican claims to workplace democracy. These twin developments led to what should be a troubling conclusion for both countries: that fundamental differences in formal political organization appear to have little impact on a core aspect of economic citizenship. The paper explores the operation of this convergence since the 1970s, beginning with the sharp decline of union density in the United States and the introduction of a predominately wage-labor market in China and ending in the parallel contemporary crises of growing income insecurity, widening economic inequality, and rising labor unrest.

Dr. Jedidiah Kroncke is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong. Previously, he was a Professor at FGV Sao Paulo School of Law, and before this he was the Senior Fellow at the East Asian Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School. Dr. Kroncke earned a B.A. in Asian Studies and Legal Studies from the University of California Berkeley, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and a Ph.D. in Social and Cultural Anthropology also from the University of California, Berkeley. After graduate school, he was awarded the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fellowship at Yale Law School, the Samuel I. Golieb Fellowship in Legal History at NYU Law and the Berger-Howe Fellowship in Legal History at Harvard Law School. His work engages with comparative law and legal history, with a substantive focus on alternative conceptions of labor and property institutions

The Zoom Link –

HKU Sociology

Main Language

Office opening hours adjustment