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Social cohesion and neighbourhood governance in contemporary urban China

Social cohesion and neighbourhood governance in contemporary urban China
Social cohesion and neighbourhood governance in contemporary urban China
The last three decades have witnessed significant socio-structural transformations in urban neighbourhoods, where the observations of liberated communities and diminishing neighbourhood cohesion seem contradictory to the preoccupations of geographically concentrated social policies and the rise of neighbourhood governance. Given this geographical puzzle, it is worth re-examining the social and institutional processes that generate and sustain neighbourhood cohesion in otherwise liberated urban communities, including questions of where and how new forms of neighbourhood governance fit into debates about social cohesion.

In this study, these questions are addressed via a case study of Nanjing, China. Here, the interplay between ‘actually existing neoliberalism’ (Brenner and Theodore, 2012) and ‘resilient authoritarianism’ (Chung, 2017) provides new opportunities to revisit the cohesion debate in an institutional environment different from where it initially emerged (North America and Western Europe, for the most part). Drawing on fieldwork in 32 urban neighbourhoods in Nanjing, including a survey of almost 1000 residents and interviews with 60 key informants, this research aims to explore the geographies of urban communities and answer the following questions: how neighbourhood cohesion is distributed in different neighbourhoods, what the major forms of governance arrangement are, and how neighbourhood governance arrangements and neighbourhood social cohesion are related in urban Nanjing.

From these considerations, when filtered through social cohesion theories and current debates of neighbouring, neighbourliness and neighbourhood governance in urban China, three general points emerge. First, rather than demonstrating assertions of ‘community liberated’ (Wellman, 2001) or a ‘crisis of social cohesion’ (Forrest and Kearns, 2001), the empirical evidence showed multiple development trajectories of urban neighbourhoods in Nanjing, which depended on the type of neighbourhood and the dimension of cohesion. Second, neighbourhood governance also worked out differently in different neighbourhoods and provided multiple neighbourhood organisational environments to cultivate, sustain or damage neighbourly behaviours and neighbourhood sentiment. Third, a plurality of governance-cohesion relationships was found, indicating that building cohesive neighbourhoods was not only a matter of key stakeholders but was also influenced by the power relationships between these actors, which were deeply embedded in local social and institutional environments. These findings provided new knowledge about the social and political geographies of urban communities. They should supplement empirical research on changing levels of neighbourhood cohesion and multiple forms of governance in urban China—which go beyond debates about whether transitional China fits into frameworks of neoliberalism or authoritarianism. This study also provided further contributions to more general urban theories of social integration and the micro-level mechanisms involved.
University of Southampton
Wang, Ying
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Wang, Ying
9f99be6c-c16d-4204-9ae8-36343e2349dc
Clarke, Nicholas
4ed65752-5210-4f9e-aeff-9188520510e8
Kemeny, Thomas E
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Moon, Graham
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Wang, Ying (2020) Social cohesion and neighbourhood governance in contemporary urban China. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 386pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The last three decades have witnessed significant socio-structural transformations in urban neighbourhoods, where the observations of liberated communities and diminishing neighbourhood cohesion seem contradictory to the preoccupations of geographically concentrated social policies and the rise of neighbourhood governance. Given this geographical puzzle, it is worth re-examining the social and institutional processes that generate and sustain neighbourhood cohesion in otherwise liberated urban communities, including questions of where and how new forms of neighbourhood governance fit into debates about social cohesion.

In this study, these questions are addressed via a case study of Nanjing, China. Here, the interplay between ‘actually existing neoliberalism’ (Brenner and Theodore, 2012) and ‘resilient authoritarianism’ (Chung, 2017) provides new opportunities to revisit the cohesion debate in an institutional environment different from where it initially emerged (North America and Western Europe, for the most part). Drawing on fieldwork in 32 urban neighbourhoods in Nanjing, including a survey of almost 1000 residents and interviews with 60 key informants, this research aims to explore the geographies of urban communities and answer the following questions: how neighbourhood cohesion is distributed in different neighbourhoods, what the major forms of governance arrangement are, and how neighbourhood governance arrangements and neighbourhood social cohesion are related in urban Nanjing.

From these considerations, when filtered through social cohesion theories and current debates of neighbouring, neighbourliness and neighbourhood governance in urban China, three general points emerge. First, rather than demonstrating assertions of ‘community liberated’ (Wellman, 2001) or a ‘crisis of social cohesion’ (Forrest and Kearns, 2001), the empirical evidence showed multiple development trajectories of urban neighbourhoods in Nanjing, which depended on the type of neighbourhood and the dimension of cohesion. Second, neighbourhood governance also worked out differently in different neighbourhoods and provided multiple neighbourhood organisational environments to cultivate, sustain or damage neighbourly behaviours and neighbourhood sentiment. Third, a plurality of governance-cohesion relationships was found, indicating that building cohesive neighbourhoods was not only a matter of key stakeholders but was also influenced by the power relationships between these actors, which were deeply embedded in local social and institutional environments. These findings provided new knowledge about the social and political geographies of urban communities. They should supplement empirical research on changing levels of neighbourhood cohesion and multiple forms of governance in urban China—which go beyond debates about whether transitional China fits into frameworks of neoliberalism or authoritarianism. This study also provided further contributions to more general urban theories of social integration and the micro-level mechanisms involved.

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Published date: February 2020

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 442134
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/442134
PURE UUID: 0c06a526-a162-460b-a61f-68ba8188ce95
ORCID for Ying Wang: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-8664-6894
ORCID for Nicholas Clarke: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-9148-9849
ORCID for Graham Moon: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-7256-8397

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 07 Jul 2020 16:50
Last modified: 08 Jul 2020 00:37

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Contributors

Author: Ying Wang ORCID iD
Thesis advisor: Nicholas Clarke ORCID iD
Thesis advisor: Thomas E Kemeny
Thesis advisor: Graham Moon ORCID iD

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