1st Edition

The Making of China’s Working Class A World to Lose

By Marc Blecher Copyright 2025
    272 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    272 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Marc Blecher presents a seminal analysis on development of the urban working class in China. Chinese workers have been the subjects of a great deal of analysis by scholars, documentation by journalists and activists, and portrayal by writers, filmmakers, and artists. The Making of China’s Working Class: A World to Lose seeks the foundation for all this in three questions: what kind of class is the Chinese working class?; what are the historical forces and processes that have formed it?; and how does the pattern of class formation help explain the working class’s reactions historically, presently, and even prospectively?

    Blecher offers a contribution not just to scholarship on Chinese labor politics, but on the country’s politics and the state’s hegemony more widely as well as to comparative labor politics. Combining usefulness, thoroughness, and clarity, The Making of China’s Working Class is an outstanding resource for educators and students, a bookshelf staple to understand Chinese politics and comparative working-class politics.


    1. Revolution: The Making of the Chinese Working Class

    2. Radicalism: The Apotheosis of the Chinese Working Class

    3. Structural Reform: The Fall of the Chinese Working Class 

    Conclusion: The Making, Apotheosis and Fall of the Chinese Working Class 



    Marc Blecher is James Monroe Professor of Politics and East Asian Studies at Oberlin College. He has served as a Senior Research Fellow at the UC Berkeley Center for Chinese Studies, Visiting Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, and Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies of the University of Sussex. His specialty is Chinese politics, on which he has published five books and dozens of articles on political science, rural and urban politics, popular participation, political economy, and political sociology.

    In this bold, original treatise on the variegated fortunes of China's workers over more than a 100-year period, Marc Blecher considers their heterogenous fortunes and their disparate levels of agency by place, gender, skill, and political dauntlessness over time. He draws on a wealth of studies of these laborers and his own interviews, and grounds his analysis in the thinking of E.P. Thompson, Ira Katznelson, Gramsci, Karl Marx, and Michael Burawoy.  There is much to chew over in his thoughtful, compassionate account.

    Dorothy J. SolingerProfessor Emerita, University of California, Irvine