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Wibisono, Ignatius W. (1996) Traditionalization of authority: Roles and authority of village party branch secretaries in China, 1978-1995. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This dissertation is about the roles of party branch secretaries in the villages after the introduction of Reform in late 1978. There are approximately 730,000 such individuals in China. This dissertation argues that the strategy of nominal encapsulation adopted after Reform (1978) leads to the emergence of four roles to be played by village party secretaries: two roles assigned by the state (state agent and entrepreneurial agent) and two roles demanded by their fellow villagers (moral middleman and lineage patron). It further argues that the adoption of the roles of moral middleman and lineage patron is essential to the maintenance of their authority in their villages on which the roles of state agent and entrepreneurial agent are based. I term this phenomenon the "ruralisation of authority." If village party secretaries wish to play the roles assigned by the state by relying on the authority which comes from the state, it will be impossible to do so unless their authority is endorsed by their fellow villagers who demand that they play the roles of moral middleman and lineage patron. This dissertation, thus, rejects the totalitarian paradigm which sees party secretaries as the arm of the state who blindly obey their masters at the expense of their fellow villagers; it also contradicts the corruption paradigm which views party secretaries as parasites who amorally corrode the state for the sake of their private interests. The thesis of ruralisation of authority takes a middle ground: while recognising the authority of the state, it also suggests that the demand and structure of villages are important in legitimating the authority of the party secretary. Thus, it is possible to conceive a village party secretary who simultaneously plays four roles despite the apparent conflicts.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:13

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