PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2019, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (11): 1802-1813.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2019.11.015

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Neo-Marxism approach and prospect for Chinese new workers’ production of space from the perspective of agency

JIN Lixia1, HUANG Gengzhi1,2,*(), FAN Jianhong3, DU Zhiwei1, WEN Zhimin1,3   

  1. 1. Guangzhou Institute of Geography, Key Lab of Guangdong for Utilization of Remote Sensing and Geographical Information System, Guangdong Open Laboratory of Geospatial Information Technology and Application, Guangdong Academy of Innovation Development, Guangzhou 510070, China
    2. School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
    3. School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Guangdong University of Technology, Guangzhou 510090, China
  • Received:2018-12-15 Revised:2019-02-01 Online:2019-11-28 Published:2019-11-28
  • Contact: HUANG Gengzhi
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No(41571128);National Natural Science Foundation of China, No(41771137);Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province, No(2019A1515011120);Science and Technology Planning Project of Guangdong Province, China, No(2015A020216012);GDAS' Project of Science and Technology Development, No(2016GDASRC-0101)


Over the past four decades since China introduced the reform and opening-up policy, a rare large-scale population movement in human history has occurred. More than 200 million migrant workers left their hometowns to work in big cities, which has profoundly affected the politics, economy, society, and culture of contemporary China. With the transformation of economy, society, and population structure under the new normal conditions, China's labor geography is facing dramatic restructuring. The emerging industrial workers are constantly changing in the focus of rights and interests, the way of expression, and the effectiveness of practice, and quietly changing the existing labor relations with their unique spatial fix, then shaping their own economic geographical landscape. The study on geography of labor by neo-Marxist spatial political theory has undergone a transformation from class struggle geography to labor geography. Class struggle geography emphasizes that capital-dominated production of space originates from capitalist class struggle. In the late 1990s, Herod's theory of labor geography regards labor as the behavioral agent with the ability of "spatial fix" like capital. The perspective of agency has become an important trend in the study of labor geography in recent years. With the help of the production of space theory, this article attempts to construct a new research paradigm of labor geography based on the perspective of agency. The perspective of agency is critical, that is, workers' spatial practice has the ability to break through various structural constraints. First, in the process of daily spatial practice, the production and reproduction politics of struggle, livelihood politics of integration, and identity politics of creation constitute the dynamic mechanism of new workers' production of space. Second, a research path from new workers' production of space process to production of relation and labor regulation is put forward structurally. Around the core of agency, and driven by the external mechanisms of globalization and local processes, the three-dimensional mechanisms interact to form the basic process of three kinds of production of space of new workers. In this process, with the remodeling of material, social, and spiritual space, the new patterns of societal power relations are constantly derived, which will provide a new prospect for the realization of human-oriented labor market regulation mechanism and the construction of a harmonious society. Finally, this article suggests several future directions of research: the mechanism of new workers' production of space and its relationship with economic geographical reconstruction; regional differences of new workers' agency; the interaction between new workers' agency and local labor market regulation system; and agency of rural returned labor force.

Key words: neo-marxism, production of space, new workers, agency, China