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Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism by Intan Suwandi

Labor-Value Commodity Chains

The Hidden Abode of Global Production

The analysis of global commodity chains creates some crucial questions in relation to the nature of imperialism in the twenty-first century: (1) whether decentralized global commodity chains can be seen as constituting a decentralization of power among the major actors within these chains, and (2) whether the complexities of these chains suggest that the hierarchical, imperialist characteristics of the world economy have been superseded. I argue that the answer to both of these questions is no. Despite the seemingly decentralized networks, and notwithstanding the existing complexities that characterize global commodity chains, the capital-labor relations inherent in these chains are still imperialistic in their configurations. | more…

Protest against Michel Temer, São Paulo, Brazil (August 2016)

Contemporary Challenges for the Working Class and Peasantry in Brazil

In Brazil, there have been two recent parliamentary coups against the Workers’ Party and in favor of banks and corporations. Dilma Rousseff was impeached in 2016 and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was prevented from running for president, sequestered, and imprisoned. The electoral coups have resulted in a government without a social base in most of Brazilian society. It does not have a project for the majority or for the nation. It is just a project for international capital, dominated by banks and global corporations. This has led to a government made up of many nuclei of power that, despite internal contradictions, remain in agreement as a unit with regard to the project of capital. | more…

Break the Chains by Stephanie McMillan

Toward the Formation of a Transnational Alliance of Working and Oppressed Peoples

This article will be released in full online August 26, 2019.

For the last thirty years, the world system has undergone an extreme centralization of power in all its dimensions—local and international, economic and military, social and cultural. Creating a new transnational alliance of workers and oppressed peoples must be the main objective for the genuine militants who are convinced of the odious nature of the world imperialist capitalist system that we have at present. It is a heavy responsibility and the task requires several years before reaping any tangible results. | more…

Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism by Intan Suwandi

Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism

Forthcoming in August 2019

Winner of the 2018 Paul M. Sweezy – Paul A. Baran Memorial Award for original work regarding the political economy of imperialism, Intan Suwandi’s Value Chains examines the exploitation of labor in the Global South. Focusing on the issue of labor within global value chains—vast networks of people, tools, and activities needed to deliver goods and services to the market and controlled by multinationals—Suwandi offers a deft empirical analysis of unit labor costs that is closely related to Marx’s own theory of exploitation. | more…

Cover of Chasing the Harvest

California’s Migrant Farmworkers

A Caste System Enforced by State Power

“No one comes out here. No one knows what we go through,” Roberto Valdez, a farmworker in the Coachella Valley town of Thermal, California, tells Gabriel Thompson, the interviewer and editor of Chasing the Harvest, a recently published book of interviews with farmworkers, growers, union activists, teachers, and others. And as one reads through the compelling stories that are told in the collection, one gets a deep sense of what Roberto means, as well as a passionate urge to have others know of the life and work of those who labor in California’s fields. | more…

Hog Wild cover

Unionizing the World’s Largest Slaughterhouse

Capitalism has many victims, but few fare as badly as slaughterhouse workers. Every day, meatpacking workers risk life and limb to provide cheap meat for consumers. Despite this, political scientist Timothy Pachirat once described slaughterhouse work as a form of labor “considered morally and physically repellent by the vast majority of society that is sequestered from view rather than eliminated or transformed.” Yet, slaughterhouses are the sites of some of labor’s greatest triumphs. Lynn Waltz documents one such triumph in her book Hog Wild, which describes how meatpacking workers successfully established a union at the Tar Heel slaughterhouse in North Carolina. While Waltz focuses on the particular fight at the Tar Heel plant, the unionization success of the workers there provides important lessons for future labor struggles. | more…

Migrant workers returning home in a train in Cochin, India.

Global Commodity Chains and the New Imperialism

To comprehend twenty-first-century imperialism we must go beyond analysis of the nation-state to a systematic investigation of the increasing global reach of multinational corporations or the role of the global labor arbitrage. At issue is the way in which today’s global monopolies in the center of the world economy have captured value generated by labor in the periphery within a process of unequal exchange, thus getting “more labour in exchange for less. The result has been to change the global structure of industrial production while maintaining and often intensifying the global structure of exploitation and value transfer. | more…

Monitoring is built in to many of the jobs that form the ‘gig economy’—but surveillance is increasing across the workplace

New Means of Workplace Surveillance

From the Gaze of the Supervisor to the Digitalization of Employees

Workplace surveillance and the invasion of employee privacy have always been present under capitalism. Historically, this has mostly involved the combination of visual observation and abstract time, focusing on employee performance. However, the development of new information and communication technologies has brought important changes to the manner in which employers control employee productivity. Such digitalization or datafication of employees constitutes a qualitative change in the history of workplace surveillance—a change that reduces workers, their performance and bodies, to lines of code and flows of data to be scrutinized and manipulated. | more…

Can the Working Class Change the World?

Can the Working Class Change the World?

One of the horrors of the capitalist system is that slave labor, which was central to the formation and growth of capitalism itself, is still fully able to coexist alongside wage labor. But, as Karl Marx pointed out, it is the fact of being paid for one’s work that validates capitalism as a viable socio-economic structure. Beneath this veil of “free commerce”—where workers are paid only for a portion of their workday, and buyers and sellers in the marketplace face each other as “equals”—lies a foundation of immense inequality. Yet workers have always rebelled. They’ve organized unions, struck, picketed, boycotted, formed political organizations and parties—sometimes they have actually won and improved their lives. In his timely and innovative book, Michael D. Yates asks if the working class can, indeed, change the world. | more…