Institutional Articulation: Governance Between Family and State in Rural China

Tom Cliff*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article analyses the money transformations and institutional frameworks that are central to highly successful and innovative, yet legally questionable, community welfare funds in Huagang (pseudonym), an industrialized township in Shandong. One of two aims is to address the question, “How do funny money transactions constitute, undermine, affirm, and/or modify political authority—and whose political authority?” The second aim is to contribute to the study of formation within the economy—“how an economy emerges in the first place, and grows and changes structurally over time”. Both are approached by detailing how the irregular or nonlegal financial transactions that underpin welfare provision by private enterprise in Huagang are made acceptable to local authority by institutional articulation at the village level. Institutional articulation involves registered community welfare funds being granted limited and contingent autonomy on the basis of their formalised exterior institutional face, but operating according to their informal interior institutional mechanisms. The detailed case study supports the argument of this special issue that the admixture of legitimate with illegitimate transactions is intrinsic to the operation of the formal economy in China. Institutional articulation and irregular financial transactions play key roles in innovation, structural change, and the production of political authority.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)197-212
    Number of pages16
    JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


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