The Ambiguous Role of China’s Collective Land Ownership Under Global Capitalism

  • Xiangjing ChenEmail author


China, with its large tracts of land not fully capitalized and a peculiar “uneven” structure that articulates different modes of production together—the smallholdings, the nominal collective ownership, and the advanced form of post-Fordist capitalism—presents an interesting case for Marxian theory of accumulation. In this paper, I analyze how collective land ownership and subsistence agriculture serve to generate a huge army of cheap, flexible, and disposable labor force, and how the “small peasant family,” a crucial institution notable for its accumulation of “unwaged labor” and its capacity for “intensification of labor”, functions as an important institution to sustain such large-scale rotation of migrants between country and city. However, “collective ownership” still contains the possibility of dissociating laborers from the urban capital and reintegrating them with land for more productive use and thus indicates an alternative direction for China’s future development.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tsinghua UniversityBeijingChina

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