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Leverage of the Weak

Labor and Environmental Movements in Taiwan and South Korea

2015
Author:

Hwa-Jen Liu

Leverage of the Weak

Why do social movements appear at different times in a nation’s development?

Leverage of the Weak enhances knowledge of movement emergence and offers the first systematic, multilayered comparisons across movements and nations in East Asia. Hwa-Jen Liu argues that examining material factors versus ideational factors is crucial to understanding the successes (or failures) of social movements.

Theoretically sophisticated and methodologically meticulous, Hwa-Jen Liu’s book presents a fascinating comparative analysis of the labor and environmental movements in Taiwan and South Korea. Leverage of the Weak is one of the most interesting and significant books on East Asian development.

Hagen Koo, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Comparing Taiwan and South Korea strategically, Hwa-Jen Liu seeks an answer to a deceptively simple question: Why do social movements appear at different times in a nation’s development?

Despite their apparent resemblance—a colonial heritage, authoritarian rule, rapid industrialization, and structural similarities—Taiwan and South Korea were opposites in their experiences with two key social movements. South Korea followed a conventional capitalist route: labor movements challenged the system long before environmental movements did. In Taiwan, pro-environment struggles gained strength before labor activism. Liu argues that part of the explanation lies in an analysis of how movements advance their causes by utilizing different types of power. Whereas labor movements have the power of economic leverage, environmental movements depend on the power of ideology. Therefore, examining material factors versus ideational factors is crucial to understanding the successes (or failures) of social movements.

Leverage of the Weak is a significant contribution to the literature on social movements, to the study of East Asian political economies, and to the progress of the comparative-historical method. It enhances knowledge of movement emergence, investigates the possibilities and obstacles involved in forging labor–environment alliances, and offers the first systematic, multilayered comparisons across movements and nations in East Asia.

Leverage of the Weak

Hwa-Jen Liu teaches sociology at the National Taiwan University.

Leverage of the Weak

Theoretically sophisticated and methodologically meticulous, Hwa-Jen Liu’s book presents a fascinating comparative analysis of the labor and environmental movements in Taiwan and South Korea. Leverage of the Weak is one of the most interesting and significant books on East Asian development.

Hagen Koo, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

A sober yet hopeful account of the struggle to humanize capitalism, this comparative study is a valuable resource for those interested in social movements and labor, sociology, and economic development.

CHOICE

Because of its rich conceptual development, strong case study analysis and the generalisability of its findings, Leverage of the Weak is likely to appeal to a diverse academic audience.

Asian Studies Review

Essential reading for anyone interested in the historical development of Taiwan and South Korea.

American Journal of Sociology

Theoretically innovative, well-grounded in in-depth empirical research, and well written. Students who want to understand the rise social movements in East Asia, the relationship between labor and environmental activism, and the interactions between state actors and collective actors will learn a lot from this comparative study.

Mobiilization

Leverage of the Weak

Contents

Acknowledgments
Note to Readers
Abbreviations
Introduction: Strategic Comparison of Two Movements and Two Late Industrializers
1. The Power Bases of Labor and Environmental Movements
2. The Tangles of Movement Histories
3. The Emergence of Early-Riser Movements
4. Movement Legacy and Latecomer Movements
5. Labor and Environmental Trajectories
Conclusion: What Now?
Appendix: Notes on Methodology
Notes
Bibliography
Index