Low-Wage Labor in the United States
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This book addresses the ways employers in American industries use race, gender, ethnicity, and institutions of the state and the church to manipulate workers' networks and communities, and ultimately, to control the supplies and characteristics of their labor.
Griffith focuses on the labor processes in the seafood and poultry processing industries, paying particular attention to the growing use of new immigrant workers, women, and minority workers. He traces relationships between capitalist expansion overseas in peasant and tribal societies and evolving labor practices of "advanced" capitalism in the United States. As such, his work offers a critique of conventional, neoclassical economic approaches to the study of labor.
David Griffith is Associate Scientist at the Institute for Coastal and Marine Resources and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, East Carolina University.
"I like the way the author tied changes in the international division of labor to changes and growth in low wage labor in the United States, the way he related the anthropological literature on development in the Third World to theoretical considerations that pertain to 'marginal' employment in the United States, and the way he examined various dimensions (for example, household structure, the organization of work, economic development, physical/ecological constraints) to give a complete picture of changes in the labor process in the three cases examined.
"One of the most valuable insights the book offers is it shows how low wage labor in the United States was integrally related to changes in the international economy. The author makes a lucid and convincing argument that low wage labor is a central part of our 'advanced' economy, regardless of the predictions of ideologues about the bright future of our high technology economy. His careful analysis, however, paints no simple picture, and leaves the reader with a clear sense of the complexity of the problems addressed. " — Max J. Pfeffer, Rutgers University
"This is a superb book that combines good ethnography with interventions in several important theoretical debates. There are not very many good ethnographic treatments of the work of laboring classes, and this book will quickly take its place as a major addition to the handful that exist. It gives a feel for the experience of low waged work in the industries it describes, it shows the interconnectedness of workplace and family/community relations, it describes the implications of new immigration patterns and the 'unfree' forms of labor associated with their recruitment. The topic is extraordinarily significant and the author has done a wonderful job with it. " — Jane Collins, University of Wisconsin, Madison