Thursday, May 31, 2007

Reading Summary: Political Demobilization of Labor

Deyo: Political Demobilization of Labor

Deyo’s work is essentially a modern history of labor in four S.E. Asian countries (Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea). He gives us some terms and parameters for describing labor controls: dimensions (type, severity, level, and effectiveness). There are two types: repressive and corporatist. Repressive controls use force to manipulate workers, which corporatist controls manipulate workers by absorbing them into organizations that dilute their power. Severity deals with how much pressure is used to control labor forces. Levels distinguish whether it is the state or enterprise wielding the controls. Effectiveness describes how successful the controls are.

Deyo goes on to discuss how industrialization played out in Latin America and how that differed from the East Asian Experience. He details the historical stages of the labor movements and counter movements in his four East Asian subject countries. In each, there is a high degree of suppression of labor, but it takes different forms in each country. South Korea and Singapore have experienced direct state control, whereas in Taiwan and Hong Kong the state, although still responsible for setting up the system of control, allows controls to be meted out by way of the enterprise level.

Hsieh: Manufacturing Bosses

The paper by Hsieh is a repudiation of the statist approach to examining the S.E. Asian economic phenomenon, and the assertion of a production-centered approach which serves to bring workers back into the picture. The main problem as Hsieh sees it is that all the theories that try to analyze the situation focus on the state or market or other economic forces, but they leave out the direct producers. Hsieh particularly takes issue with Deyo’s work, calling it theoretically inadequate and methodologically ignorant.

Hsieh then goes on to refer to Cho’s work, calling it the first study to treat labor processes and workers in a serious way. Hsieh continues by describing Cho’s work, and pointing out the differences between her approach and his own, namely that Cho looked at the obstacles to the reproductions of dependent capitalism, while Hsieh looks at the reproduction itself. Also, while Cho states that manufacturing worker consent under EOI in S. Korea is impossible, Hsieh contends that it is possible in Taiwan because of the system of subcontracting that is absent in S. Korea.

In the summary, Hsieh points out that though the states may play a key role in getting dependent capitalism started in East Asia, the mechanism of its reproduction should be looked for at the points of production. In other words, in the interactions that take place on the shop floor. The other factors like states and market forces have to become “concretized” in order to have an impact on the reproductions of dependent capitalism in East Asia.

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