Organizing through Division and Exclusion: China's Hukou System

Organizing through Division and Exclusion: China's Hukou System

Organizing through Division and Exclusion: China's Hukou System

Organizing through Division and Exclusion: China's Hukou System

Synopsis

This book is the first comprehensive examination of China's hukou (household registration) system. The hukou system registers and governs the 1.3 billion Chinese, while creating deep and rigid divisions and exclusions; in many domains the system determines how the Chinese live and shapes China's sociopolitical structure and socioeconomic development. This book shows that the system has made both positive and negative contributions to contemporary Chinese society: it has helped foster rapid economic growth and political stability, but also has reinforced social stratification, the rural-urban divide, regional inequalities, and discrimination and injustice.

Using rich new materials, this book traces the history and development of the hukou system. It describes the functions, impact, and operational mechanisms of the system. It also analyzes the hukou in comparison with the systems of exclusion and discrimination in other nations, notably Brazil and India. This book presents important insights for understanding China's past, present, and future.

Excerpt

Various types of institutional exclusion have varying degrees of legitimacy and effectiveness in any given nation. Apart from the power of the enforcer—the state or social organization—that maintains and executes institutional exclusion and the particular fault line on which an exclusion system is based, as discussed in Chapter 1, the history of the exclusion system itself is very important. the human tendency to be path-dependent and the political logic of institutional inertia play a great part in legitimizing and enforcing an institutional exclusion. Furthermore, older institutions tend to be internalized over time and thus form powerful forces of culture and tradition, affecting people's behavior through value construction, habit formation, and conduct constraints. Legal norms, not to mention ethical standards, can often be built on the sheer power of tradition alone. Time, therefore, is of the essence of the development and legitimization of behavior-shaping human institutions, including institutional exclusions.

Currently, the prc hukou (household registration) system divides and organizes the people based on locational and family-membership differentiation as recognized and determined by the state. By regulating internal migration and segmenting the population to manage the people accordingly, the prc hukou system has created a powerful institutional exclusion. the excluded rural and small-town residents form the overwhelming majority of the population in today's China, and it is easy to see the ethical problems of discrimination and inequality that are increasingly magnified by the rapid development of a market economy in an era of globalized information. Yet the hukou system still enjoys considerable institutional legitimacy and administrative effectiveness.

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