Aspirant Despotism: Dominating Unemployed Young Hong Kong Labor under Authoritarian Capitalism

Yu Kwan Siu, Shuheng Jin

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


This paper shows how mechanisms to control Hong Kong young workers are embedded today in inadequate labor protections within the government's social welfare system and prevalent informalization workplace practices. A deep-seated market ideology stressing young workers' aspirant, self-reliant and industrious dispositions is also mobilized. Based on in-depth interviews with the unemployed and young workers in 2020, this article argues for a new young working-class subject laboring under a new mode of domination—aspirant despotism. It inherits despotic features of Hong Kong state's non-interventionist strategy and repression to labor resistances to indulge capitalist exploitation, but rebrands deep-seated market ideology into aspirant work ethos seeking to create a pool of docile labor. This paper also calls for a reconceptualization of the Hong Kong state. Repressive to labor notwithstanding, should unemployment become source of instability, the authoritarian capitalist state would strategically intervene into the economy in the interest of its survival.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Sociology
Publication statusIn preparation - 2021


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