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Leverage of the Weak

Leverage of the Weak: Labor and Environmental Movements in Taiwan and South Korea

Hwa-Jen Liu
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Leverage of the Weak
    Book Description:

    Comparing Taiwan and South Korea strategically, Hwa-Jen Liu seeks an answer to a deceptively simple question: Why do social movements appear at different times in a nation's development?

    Despite their apparent resemblance-a colonial heritage, authoritarian rule, rapid industrialization, and structural similarities-Taiwan and South Korea were opposites in their experiences with two key social movements. South Korea followed a conventional capitalist route: labor movements challenged the system long before environmental movements did. In Taiwan, pro-environment struggles gained strength before labor activism. Liu argues that part of the explanation lies in an analysis of how movements advance their causes by utilizing different types of power. Whereas labor movements have the power of economic leverage, environmental movements depend on the power of ideology. Therefore, examining material factors versus ideational factors is crucial to understanding the successes (or failures) of social movements.

    Leverage of the Weakis a significant contribution to the literature on social movements, to the study of East Asian political economies, and to the progress of the comparative-historical method. It enhances knowledge of movement emergence, investigates the possibilities and obstacles involved in forging labor-environment alliances, and offers the first systematic, multilayered comparisons across movements and nations in East Asia.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4476-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Note to Readers
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction: Strategic Comparison of Two Movements and Two Late Industrializers
    (pp. 1-14)

    Given the voluminous writings on social movements, both popular and academic, it is surprising how little we know aboutmovement sequences—the temporal order of different movements coming into being. The stories of social movements, in most cases, have been delivered in such a way as to suggest that a lone warrior fights for justice and dignity in a sea of injustices and obstacles.¹ Yet from the perspective of movement sequences, warriors are never really alone. Each of them grows up amid the legends of elder warriors who have left either tearful memories or hope of triumph. This book is...

  7. 1 The Power Bases of Labor and Environmental Movements
    (pp. 15-38)

    From the various historical accounts, labor and environmental movements appear quite different. If we make an ideal-typical distinction (see Figure 5), they have different constituencies, associational forms,¹ and targets of protection. In addition, they follow different organizing principles and seek to realize different types of solidarity to consolidate their power bases. They pose different degrees of threat to the authorities and are treated accordingly. They articulate different sets of social interests and construct distinct self-images, and as a result, the public perceives and receives them differently.

    How are these differences connected to our reverse sequencing? In this chapter, I look...

  8. 2 The Tangles of Movement Histories
    (pp. 39-54)

    As outlined in the Introduction, this book divides the reverse sequencing into three areas of empirical inquiry: who it is that becomes an early riser; what the impact of the early risers is on the latecomers; and which trajectory labor and environmental movements undertake. Before tackling them with full force, I want first to make empirically my case that the timings of emergence of the four movements are indeed in reverse order. This will require some preliminary explanations of movement histories and the social surroundings from which the movements arose. I first survey the existing literature on the contested issue...

  9. 3 The Emergence of Early-Riser Movements
    (pp. 55-92)

    Taiwan’s and Korea’s movement emergence stories began in the early 1970s, twenty-some years after anticolonial struggles were won and a system of divided nationhood was firmly established in the Cold War era.¹ Unlike European workers and other protesters whose experience of industrialization preceded the struggle for citizenship, the political rights of Asian workers and other aggrieved populations predated “the development of a stable economy” (Lipset 1959, 101). Macro socioeconomic conditions—a universal suffrage that did not, however, guarantee genuine power sharing, and young, capitalistic economies aspiring to rid themselves of poverty and stride toward great wealth—set the stage for...

  10. 4 Movement Legacy and Latecomer Movements
    (pp. 93-128)

    Bounded by the spatial and organizational patterns of industrialization, Taiwan’s environmental and Korea’s labor activism slowly emerged as early-riser movements out of difficult battles against the state’s incorporationist or repressive measures in the mid-to late 1970s. The previous chapter analyzed solely the interaction between early-riser movements and state actions. As the focus shifts to latecomer movements, a few things change.

    First and foremost, the contexts change. Early-riser movements fought for restricted survival space in a relatively stable system in which the ruler was yet to show its vulnerability, whereas the rise of latecomer movements was situated in a context where...

  11. 5 Labor and Environmental Trajectories
    (pp. 129-158)

    A strategic comparison of Taiwan’s and Korea’s labor and environmental movements first renders a series of contrasts between the early-riser and latecomer movements, as presented in the previous chapters. These four movements further entail a dimension of cross-movement comparison that leads to conjectures on possible labor–environmental alliances.

    By comparing the four movements, two sharply distinct movement trajectories are noted. For the labor trajectory, both the Taiwanese and Korean labor movements began with a “satanic mill” story in the labor-intensive industries: low wages, hellish working conditions, long hours, pervasive respiratory diseases, and protests in despair. These early spontaneous protests were...

  12. Conclusion: What Now?
    (pp. 159-170)

    What does this book—the first to use cross-national protest data to reconstruct the movement histories of two small, East Asian countries that attract relatively little scholarly attention—have to offer to academics, activists, and the wider world? This concluding chapter first puts forward a commentary on the scholarly literature and ends with further reflections on two things: the relationship between democracy, labor, and environment and the prospect of labor and environmental movements in the twenty-first century.

    In most historical narratives of social movements, the story line usually goes something like this. Once upon a time, a group of people...

  13. Appendix: Notes on Methodology
    (pp. 171-178)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 179-188)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-218)
  16. Index
    (pp. 219-226)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-229)