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, â€œHow do funny money transactions constitute, undermine, affirm, and/or modify political authorityâ€”and whose political authority?â€ The second aim is to contribute to the study of formation within the economyâ€”â€œhow an economy emerges in the first place, and grows and changes structurally over timeâ€. 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.
|American Behavioral Scientist
|Published - 2021