Tuesday, Oct. 10, Le Lin at Money, Markets and Governance: Are Ambiguities Assets? State, Innovation and Privatization in China

You are join us on Tuesday, October 10, at 5 – 6:30 PM, for a joint session with the Power, History and Society workshop to discuss Le Lin’s paper. The workshop will take place in the Social Science Research Building, room 401 (and not as was announced earlier).

Le Lin

Assistant Professor, University of Hawaii at Manoa (Ph.D. University of Chicago, 2017)

Are Ambiguities Assets? State, Innovation and Privatization in China

Discussant: Maryam Alemzadeh
PhD Student, Sociology, The University of Chicago

*Co-hosted with Power, History and Society Worksohp*

Abstract: This paper examines whether and how ambiguities lead to organizational innovation. Previous literature tend to either deny their relationship, or only attribute the role of ambiguities to recombination/transposition as a result of network overlap. I argue that how ambiguities are associated with innovation is also contingent upon the state. State is not only a direct source of ambiguities, but it can also create macro-conditions that tolerate ambiguities. My empirical evidences come from China’s education and training industry and similar industries that are ambiguous on multiple dimensions. These ambiguous industries attracted marginal entrepreneurs, which contributed to practices that were nonconforming with formal regulations and informal norms. Under state-induced ambiguities, nonconforming practices were less likely to be sanctioned and even made more effective in securing critical resources. State-conferred legitimacy became less relevant under state-induced ambiguities. Consequently, nonconforming enterprises, as prototypical private enterprises, gained market leader status. During this process, their nonconforming practices developed into and sustained as innovations of the field. The rise of nonconforming enterprises also changed the rules of the game and pushed the privatization of the industry. I discuss the implication of my findings for the conceptualization of innovation and China’s privatization at the end.


For concerns regarding accessibility or any others, please contact the coordinator at yaniv {at} uchicago {dot} edu

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