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The Government Next Door


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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Neighborhood Consensus 1. Social Clustering: Neighborhoods and the Governing of Social Distinction 2. Micro-Governing the Urban Crisis 3. Housing and Social Engineering 4. Contained Contention: Interests, Places, Community, and the State 5. A Contagious Civilization: Community, Exemplarism, and Suzhi Conclusion: Arenas of Contention and Accommodation Notes Bibliography Index

About the Author

Luigi Tomba is a Senior Fellow at the Australian Centre on China in the World, Australian National University. He is the author of Paradoxes of Labour Reform: Chinese Labour Theory and Practice from Socialism to the Market and coeditor of The China Journal.


"Tomba's research went far beyond the somewhat soulless quantitative data ofmuch current social science. Hundreds of interviews in which the author talked with local cadres,ordinary citizens, and others in three Chinese cities are at the heart of the fruitful ethnographicnarratives in this volume. Tomba encountered varying local-center relationships, allfalling on a spectrum ranging from past Leninist centralism to the neighborhoodautonomy readers might expect in a developed civil society."-J.D. Gillespie, Choice (March 2015) "The Government Next Door is a great title for a book on [neighborhood] politics in China. For some, the title might invoke associations of kind, unassuming politicians who are part of the community themselves. Others might feel trepidation: after all, resident committees, though legally social organizations, are extensions of an authoritarian regime. Judging by the subtlety of argument that permeates Tomba's book, this ambiguity is intentional. Indeed, one of the book's many qualities is the clarity with which it illustrates the 'liquidity' of governance in urban China. Having been a resident in several urban [neighborhoods] enables Luigi Tomba to illustrate his penetrating analysis with lucid case studies and examples...Even readers who are familiar with China's urban community will be guaranteed to find a great many gems - be it stories, observations or interpretations. The book is as suitable for experts as it is for beginners, and Tomba's often bold, often subtle and acute arguments will no doubt stimulate intensive discussions inside and outside the classroom. It provides food for thought for those who are attracted to Foucauldian notions of power, and is a must-read for anyone interested in China's urban governance, and state-society relations more generally."-Christian Gobel,The China Quarterly(June 2015) "Any visitor who stays in mainland China for a while might wonder about the country's seeming stability. Ordinary Chinese rarely conceal their grievances about increasing inequality, corruption, and the near death of society as we imagine it. Media reports about peasants' struggles against land expropriation as well as workers' protests against labour exploitation have dramaticallyincreased over recent decades. Nevertheless, these class-specific incidents are isolated while everyday conflicts remain "contained," relatively peacefully, in local neighbourhoods. The Government Next Door is a significant contribution to interrogating this puzzle. With a sophisticated eye to neighbourhood politics, the book shows how political legitimacy is cultivated and grounded among local residents with various interests and status...I am certain that this book will be discussed enthusiastically by scholars who engage in urban space, class politics, and governmentality in contemporary China."-Mun Young Cho,Pacific Affairs(September 2016) "The Government Next Door is an illuminating discussion of governance in urban China that provides well-grounded analysis of power, identity, and contentious politics. Luigi Tomba's conclusions challenge many common assumptions about the political attitudes and agency of the urban middle class."-Mark W. Frazier, The New School for Social Research, author of Socialist Insecurity: Pensions and the Politics of Uneven Development in China "Ambitious and timely, The Government Next Door is a remarkable book about changing neighborhood politics and shifting practices of power in everyday life in contemporary Chinese cities. Luigi Tomba skillfully addresses a broad range of issues central to our understanding of Chinese society and politics today."-Li Zhang, University of California, Davis, author of In Search of Paradise "Market reforms have fundamentally transformed city life in China, with neighborhoods increasingly defined by the incomes and housing assets of their residents rather than by the affiliation with a common employer that characterized Mao-era urban housing distribution. This timely volume provides rich ethnography and insightful analysis of this transformation and shows how the Chinese Communist Party nonetheless continues to exert a powerful influence on urban residential patterns and neighborhood social order."-Martin King Whyte, John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and Sociology, Harvard University "Warp-speed privatization of urban housing and the collapse of work-unit sociality profoundly altered the Mao era dynamics of governance in Chinese cities. But Luigi Tomba is the first to systematically demonstrate how the property revolution has strengthened rather than weakened the regime's legitimacy and its ability to govern at the grass roots. Acutely attuned to the 'unexpected narratives' of both residents and local cadres and to the new forms of association, Tomba has no peer in explaining the change and continuities in the everyday practices of power that characterize urban communities today."-Deborah Davis, Yale University "Luigi Tomba offers a fresh perspective on 'consensus' in Chinese neighborhood politics, sure to be of equal interest to students of everyday life and popular contention. Based on hundreds of interviews, participant observation, and a reading of a wide range of sources, he tells us how people in the midst of rapid socioeconomic change experience a reordering of their spatial reality and frame their grievances. No bloodless social science here, but a careful and illuminating effort to show how urban Chinese cope with housing privatization, residential segregation, new marketing practices and much more."-Kevin J. O'Brien, Bedford Professor of Asian Studies and Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

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