The Politics of Classes of Labour in Asia and Latin America: Reproduction Zones and Collective Action

Authors: Jonathan Pattenden*, University of East Anglia
Topics: Development, Economic Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: Classes of Labour, informal labour, collective action, global production networks
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Hampton Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the contemporary global economy, new technologies are growing the ‘reserve army’ of labour, while the wage-system is becoming increasingly unable to meet workers’ ‘basic needs’. Bernstein’s concept of ‘classes of labour’ refers to the growing proportion of the world’s population that is now compelled to reproduce itself through various forms of petty production, and wage-labour that is increasingly scarce, informal and precarious. Rather than more ‘visible’ locations in global production networks, this paper focuses on the under-researched majority of labourers who have little structural or associational power. Drawing on fieldwork in India, Indonesia and Peru, the paper seeks out the social, spatial and temporal forms of labour’s collective action by analysing spatial patterns of reproduction and forms of control. Inflected with the agency of both capital and labour, these ‘local labour control regimes’ are shown to vary between commuting zones that link villages to nearby cities, and circulation zones that link villages to distant cities. These variations are linked to sites of both reproductive and productive labour. The paper analyses how collective action differs across the two ‘zones’, and considers the possibilities for scaling up, consolidating and extending class struggle.

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