The Government Next Door - Neighborhood Politics in Urban China

Author(s): Luigi Tomba

Social Sciences | No Category

Chinese residential communities are places of intense governing and an arena of active political engagement between state and society. In The Government Next Door, Luigi Tomba investigates how the goals of a government consolidated in a distant authority materialize in citizens' everyday lives. Chinese neighborhoods reveal much about the changing nature of governing practices in the country. Government action is driven by the need to preserve social and political stability, but such priorities must adapt to the progressive privatization of urban residential space and an increasingly complex set of societal forces. Tomba's vivid ethnographic accounts of neighborhood life and politics in Beijing, Shenyang, and Chengdu depict how such local translation of government priorities takes place.


Tomba reveals how different clusters of residential space are governed more or less intensely depending on the residents' social status; how disgruntled communities with high unemployment are still managed with the pastoral strategies typical of the socialist tradition, while high-income neighbors are allowed greater autonomy in exchange for a greater concern for social order. Conflicts are contained by the gated structures of the neighborhoods to prevent systemic challenges to the government, and middle-class lifestyles have become exemplars of a new, responsible form of citizenship. At times of conflict and in daily interactions, the penetration of the state discourse about social stability becomes clear.


--Li Zhang, University of CaliforniaDavis, author of In Search of Paradise "The China Quarterly"

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"Warp-speed privatization of urban housing and the collapse of work-unit sociality profoundly altered the Mao era dynamics of governance in Chinese cities. But Luigi Tomba is the first to systematically demonstrate how the property revolution has strengthened rather than weakened the regime's legitimacy and its ability to govern at the grass roots. Acutely attuned to the 'unexpected narratives’ of both residents and local cadres and to the new forms of association, Tomba has no peer in explaining the change and continuities in the everyday practices of power that characterize urban communities today."—

Deborah Davis, Yale University (JC BookGrocer)

General Fields

  • : 9780801479359
  • : Cornell University Press
  • : Cornell University Press
  • : August 2014
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Luigi Tomba
  • : Paperback
  • : 240