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POLI 338 (20)
Juan Wang (20)

POLI 338 - Lee: Engendering the Worlds of Labor.doc

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Political Science
POLI 338
Juan Wang

Lee – Engendering the Worlds of Labor: Women Workers, Labor Markets, and Production Politics in the South China Economic Miracle − comparative ethnographic study of two gendered regimes of production in two factories in south China − same products/processes, yet different patterns of shop-floor politics − 'localistic despotism' − 'familial hegemony' Argues: − social organization of local labour markets produces diverse conditions of workers' dependence − this determines management strategies of control, workers' collective practices, and their mutual constructions of workers' gender − leads to critiques of the theory of production politics and feminist literature on women workers in global factories Intro − 'localistic despotism:' management control over migrant workforce through coercive disciplinary regime − exploits localistic networks − constructs women as docile 'maiden workers' − 'familial hegemony:' establishes control through shop-floor discourses of familialism (women's fulfillment of familia responsibilities) − constructs women as “veteran and domineering 'matron workers'” − variation in social organization of labour market produces differences in conditions of workers' dependence − single migrant workers depend on localistic networks for jobs, loans, and support − married women's participation s contingent on conditions of their families − in response, management adopts diverse modes of incorporating labour while women deploy different modes of resistance Two claims: − feminist analyses of gender need to develop area-specific theories − Marxist labour-process theories of production politics must recognize that gender is a dimension of managerial control Gender and Production Politics − key insight of feminism: gender is socially constructed and is a constituent dimension of power relations − recent literature has focused on arena-specific gender construction − debate centres around consequences for women of their insertion into production − some argue that industrial employment liberates women from marginalization and local patriarchal control while others maintain that it recomposes and reinforces women's subjugation − other research has show how state development policies encourage foreign capital to exploit women, often in collusion with patriarchal family − 'factory regime:' overall political form of production, including political effects of the labour process and the political apparatuses of production − two types: − despotic: workers dependent on wage employment for livelihoods − state intervention and provision of welfare removes basis for coercion − hegemonic: when consent prevails over coercion − Lee finds three anomalies with past (Burawoy) theories: 1) Despite lacking livelihood independent of wage labour and no resource to state welfare, which previously was predicted to form a despotic regime, Lee finds a hegemonic regime in Hong Kong − in Shenzhen, there is a potential for independent livelihood, yet they form a despotic regime − Lee: error comes in assuming management always has an interest in coercive control whenever it has the capacity to impose despotism − coercion may not always be in the interest of managers, because coercion is costly 2) Rather than state or enterprise, workers depend on institutions in the labour market for crucial resources − one example: networks originating to a common homeland (localism) − workers depend on these ties for survival, while management exploits these ties to control labour − another example: familial and kinship ties (familialism) − workers depend on families for survival, while management controls through facilitating women's fulfillment of familial duties 3) Completely misses gender dimension of control and resistance − in factories, women's gender is diversely constructed by management and workers, and it is through these constructions that shop-floor power relations are conceived, legitimized, naturalized, and criticized − 'maiden workers' and 'matron workers' − actors use perceived differences between the sexes to organize and interpret social life South China Regional Economy and the Two Worlds of Labour − Guangdong has always been the engine for the nation's economic growth, much of it owed to foreign investment − since 1980s, Hong Kong has struggled with rising costs of production, protectionism in overseas markets, and competition from manufacturers in other Asian countries − this challenge is amplified by the non-interventionist policy of the government, unlike Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea, where the government invested in technological upgrades − thus, Hong Kong manufacturers relied on cheap labour and land in south China − in both factories, Lee observed “gender hierarchy” in the division of labour; females were workers and line-leaders, while men were repair workers, foremen, or managers − in both plants, women made up 80 per cent of all production employees − main difference: Hong Kong workers mostly middle-aged working mothers, while those in China were mostly young single women − Lee sees “regimes as negotiated orders rather than as institutional reflections of capitalism's historical tendencies” − because workers can still collectively impose constraints on management, Lee sees “regimes as apparatuses of domination and local sites of resistance simultaneously” − 'despotism' is domination through coercion − 'hegemony' is domination through consent Localistic Despotism − control in Shenzhen was “overt, visible, punishment-oriented, and publicly displayed” − three aspects inflicted the most pain: − physical controls: movement restrictions, compartmentalization of factory − timed labour: rigid, yet filled with uncertainty (overtime planned by management) − docking of wages: for all—even legitimate—absences − despotism tempered by pattern of localistic association − “workers identified each other less by name (many of which were faked) than by their province or county of origin) − dialects marked exclusiveness and boundaries of localistic communities − line-leaders, foremen, and supervisors practised nepotism, and petty favouritism among workers were also distributed along county lines 'Maiden Workers' − management manipulated gender hierarchy embedded in localistic networks to exert additional control − 'maiden workers' emphasized young women's single status, immaturity, imm
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