Land, Labour, and Capital in South Africa and China: Rural and Urban Struggles in the Post-Apartheid and Hukou-Reform Periods

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 08:45
Oral Presentation
Ben SCULLY, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Shaohua ZHAN, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
This paper explores a paradox in the political economies of China and South Africa. In both countries, rural residents have become increasingly dependent on migration for wage labour over the past few decades, as the volume and stability of rural non-wage sources of income have declined. However, at the same time conflict over rural land has become more acute, despite its decreasing material value in rural residents’ livelihoods. This paper presents an analysis of the changing relationship between land, labour, and capital in both countries to explain this paradox. It argues that, while the accumulation regimes of the mid-20th century privileged urban capital and workers over rural dwellers, in the contemporary period, the precaritization of urban labour has eliminated the functionality of rural production for urban capital accumulation. Restrictions on rural to urban mobility have been relaxed or removed, but rural areas have become resources that rural residents use in order to access the precarious urban wage market. This link between rural and urban livelihoods also has important implications for the connections between rural and urban political struggles in both countries.