East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

January 17, Le Lin, “Capitalism Out of the Shadow: Double Ambiguity and the Privatization and Marketization of China’s Education and Training Industry”


East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society presents

Capitalism Out of the Shadow: Double Ambiguity and the Privatization and Marketization of China’s Education and Training Industry”

Le Lin

PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology

University of Copenhagen

4:30-6:00p.m., Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Pick Lounge, 5828 South University Ave.

*Light refreshments will be served*


This article presents a novel bottom-up development trajectory of China’s private economy by drawing on the education and training industry (ETI) and other doubly ambiguous industries. Organizations in these industries used to be ambiguous both in terms of whether they were private and whether they were for-profit. Based on primary data on eight organizations and secondary data on an additional twelve, I explore why and how prototypical private enterprises thrived in the ETI, despite systematic restrictions placed on private ownership and for-profit activities in this industry by the Chinese state. Specifically, why did a particular model of prototypical private enterprises that was more deviant from state regulations and informal cooperation norms than other models become dominant? I found that the ETI relied on the state and the second economy for resources and organizational repertoires. Private entrepreneurs in the ETI blended elements of these two divergent sources into new and deviant practices. I argue that the more deviant model not only benefited from the structural condition of double ambiguity, but their deviant practices were made more effective and less likely to be sanctioned under such condition. In ambiguous social spaces, norm deviance is the primary engine for initial capitalistic development. As prototypical private enterprises outcompeted state-affiliated and other less deviant enterprises, they became rule-makers and pushed the marketization and privatization of the industry from below. My study has important implications for the origins and size of China’s private sector, the role of the sate in market transition and organizational theories.

About the Speaker

Le Lin is a PhD Candidate in Sociology and the William Rainey Harper Provost Fellow at the University of Chicago. His research interests include formal and complex organizations, economic sociology, work and occupations, education and contemporary Chinese society. Specifically, he studies why transitional economies’ organizational fields, such as education and medicine that used to be the epitome of the socialist welfare system and that have been tightly controlled by the state, have become privatized and marketized. Currently, he is working on his dissertation that examines how China’s education and training industry grows out of the state’s resources, tight regulations and the second economy’s organizational repertoires. He holds a B.A. in Economics from Zhejiang University, an M.A. in Education from Columbia University (Teachers College) and an M.A. in Sociology from the University of Chicago.

*To see the full Winter 2017 schedule: Winter Schedule

Faculty sponsors:

Xi Song (Sociology), Dali Yang (Political Science), and Dingxin Zhao (Sociology)

The East Asia Workshop is sponsored by the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences. Persons with disabilities who believe they may need assistance please contact the student coordinator in advance.



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