Dr Yan Wang’s first book, Pension Policy and Governmentality in China: Manufacturing Public Compliance, is published open access by LSE Press. Here, Dr Yang discusses her research and publishing her first book.
Congratulations on your new book, could you tell us a little bit about what motivated your research?
This book is about the story of governance in modern society, focusing on state-society interactions in China.
In this book I am trying to answer a key question for political sociology, which is how might state governmentality be helpful for a government to maintain its compliance from the public, while also taking advantage of this rapid economic growth?
Normally we would think a rapid economic growth can be a disruptive power that’s threatening the social regimes and the ideologies of the incumbent regime. However, China’s case tells us, the incumbent government can actually lead a rapid social and economic transformation for over 40 years, without a fundamental subversive [challenge] against its rule.
So, the key question for me is how have the logics of China’s governmentality been able to help maintain compliance from the public while acting so radically to advance the state’s priorities for growth?
And how did you set about answering this question?
To answer it fully, I used a mixture of methods, including analysing resource allocation within the pension schemes, and quantitative text analysis to unpack how knowledge is constructed in official discourses. I also used causal identification to estimate the effects of key policy instruments on public opinion about deservingness, welfare responsibility and even political trust.
From this, I could show evidence that public compliance is not only acquired through ‘buying off’ the public with governmental performance and transfer benefits, but it is also manufactured through achieving cultural changes and new ideological foundations for general legitimation. The Chinese state’s strategy to generate public compliance is hybrid, organic and dynamic.
In addition to this, a substantial part of the book actually moves a little bit beyond the pension issue per se, and puts the focus on the public side more actively. I collected qualitative evidence to discuss the issue of why falsified compliance might exist in China’s society and the mechanisms that may lie behind it. The analysis particularly highlights that when active counter-conduct (such as resistance) is confined in society, individuals may choose cognitive rebellion and falsify their public compliance.
Your book is based on your doctoral thesis, what was it like to transform this into a book?
To do this, I had to think about a whole different audience, and how a broader readership might think about a sociological work, why they would want to read a book about China, and how to explain the theoretical ideas and methodologies to them while helping readers to understand the story. I got strong and constructive feedback from my reviewers that gave me more confidence to change my materials, develop it, and further to publish it.
I needed to rethink the structure of a book that uses mixed methods, which is different from the full qualitative ones that could easily link the stories together. My project embraces several related research questions bound together under an umbrella theme, and I needed to restructure and revise the long chapters from the dissertation, while at the same time keeping the logic consistent.
To adapt a PhD into a book you also need to think about what distinguishes this book from other books in the same area – this is not entirely the same as the literature review, which concentrates on why my research can contribute to certain areas of knowledge. Instead it’s about extending the discussion to public impact and social knowledge accumulation.
Why did you choose LSE Press and open access publishing?
As sociologists, we study society, social relations and the nature of that – so why keep the knowledge to ourselves? With open access, the work is more accessible to a broader audience, and there’s more possibility of knowledge exchange, which is particularly important for social science research.
With LSE Press, I found I had a customised publication plan, and strong support from the team. I learnt a lot from LSE Press’s Editor-in-Chief, Professor Patrick Dunleavy, during the process. Patrick has been a strong and helpful mentor to guide the young junior professionals to move from their student period into a researcher period. Publishing open access is about building a profile as a researcher and how to think about the publications and your career path.
Yan Wang is a Research Fellow in the School of Public Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Pension Policy and Governmentality in China: Manufacturing Public Compliance is available to download for free from LSE Press at: https://doi.org/10.31389/lsepress.ppc
Feature image: by Javier Quiroga on Unsplash