Evolving humanity, emerging worlds
Manchester, UK; 5th-10th August 2013
Dialectical Anthropology Panel B: producing labour and the earth
Location University Place 6.212
Date and Start Time 09 Aug, 2013 at 16:30
This panel considers the material conditions of the production of labor in the context of the dereliction and retrenchment of market capitalism, raising questions about threats to social reproduction, limits to exploitation and the oppression of the wage imperative in the production of human life.
This panel examines the status and future prospects of the sociocultural meanings and material conditions of labour and of working lives in a context of chronic global underemployment, in which the relation between wages and the cost of the social reproduction of labour is increasingly meaningless, while at the same time working populations are coercively subjected to the extraction of tribute to sustain accumulation within financial regimes. As the integrity of labor, livelihoods and social reproduction is to an increasing extent threatened, venerable questions about the self evident logic of accumulation and the limits to exploitation can be usefully revisited, and questions about the overbearing imperatives of wage earning in the production of human life(times) can be usefully reintroduced.
Discussant: Kathy Powell
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
"Fever," "Mania," and Social Ill: English Education and Social Anxiety in Neoliberal South Korea
This paper analyzes the relationship between neoliberal economic policies and the massive expansion of English language programs in South Korea. It will explain these connections ethnographically by describing and analyzing the educational regimen that has emerged since the 1997 IMF "crisis."
East Asian economies have simultaneously inspired awe and anxiety among policy makers in the West. From the economic "miracle" of the Asian "tigers" to the so-called rise of China, many commentators have anguished over the "secret" of this power shift leading to an ahistorical concept of Confucianism that is the fountainhead of the educational "fever" and "mania" that has catapulted East Asia. This search for cultural explanation side steps questions of power and the specifics of class conflict in Asia. Rather than exhibiting the symptoms of an uncontrollable English-mania, most Korean students not only loathe studying English but have intense anxiety about speaking this foreign tongue. This paper ethnographically describes and analyzes the educational regimen that has emerged in South Korea over the past fifteen years. English education programs have simultaneously dissuaded Koreans from social criticism and encouraged ruthless competition in the classroom in the quest to attain ever diminishing social goods and well-paid jobs. Moreover, I will connect this class anxiety, and competition that propels English language education, to the economic policies that were intensified by the 1997 IMF settlement. South Korea's system of English education has both ideologically supported and served as a model of neoliberal policy as families have borne a large degree of the cost of English education, which has given rise to a vast private education industry that has undermined the authority and integrity of public schools.
That was Then... : Changes in the Meanings of Work at Key Moments of Capitalist Transformation
Using ethnographic fieldwork in the American heartland in the late 20th century, this paper considers the changing nature of work as experienced in traditional manufacturing jobs to understand how capitalist transformations settle into the subjectivities of those who must bear their consequences.
To place into perspective the upheavals occuring in labour processes during the present capitalist crisis, this paper looks back at a key moment in the spread of the process of de-industrialisation across the United States in the late 20th century. Addressing questions about the nature of work as experienced by (mainly) white male workers in traditional manufacturing jobs in the American Midwest, the paper focuses on the reshaping of the labour process in the era of flexible accumulation -- such as the changes in the scheduling of work shifts to meet the demands of just-in-time production, or changes in management techniques such as the introduction of the 'team' concept -- and the ways in which they were understood and taken on board. The intention here is to use ethnographic practice to cast light on the processes by which capitalist transformations settle into the subjectivities of those who must bear their consequences, in order to better understand the possible political trajectories of the ways in which labour is being produced in the present conjuncture.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.