Jones's Minimal

Low-Wage Labor in the United States

By David Griffith

Subjects: Anthropology Of Work
Series: SUNY series in the Anthropology of Work
Paperback : 9780791413104, 266 pages, March 1993
Hardcover : 9780791413098, 266 pages, March 1993

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Table of contents

Tables and Figures


Part I. Introduction

1. The Growth of Low-Wage Labor in the Production of Food


Theoretical, Methodological, and Empirical Contributions of the Current Work
Methodological Considerations
Seafood Processing, Poultry Processing, and Agriculture Within the Culture and Political Economy of the Rural South


2. An Anthropology of Labor under Advanced Capitalism


Theoretical Background: Relationships Between International and Domestic Labor Processes


Part II. Industry Organization: A Comparative Overview

3. Seafood Processing in Eastern North Carolina: An Overview


General Concerns of the Industry
Perceived Problems: Welfare, Low Wages, and the Labor Supply
Influences of Levels of Regional Development on Seafood Processing
Domestic Production and Labor Market Dynamics
Work Settings
Organization of Work
Work Organization, Recruitment, and Dependence on the Seafood Industry


4. The Poultry Industry in the Southeast United States


Changes in the Poultry Industry: The 1940s to Today
The Influence of the Local Economy on the Poultry Industry
Wages, Benefits, and Union Activity in the Four Regions
Work Organization in the Industry
Conclusion: A Comparative Discussion of Seafood and Poultry Production


Part III. Household and Community in Patterns of Labor Control

5. Shucking Shellfish, Picking Crab: A Profile of North Carolina Seafood Processing Workers


Patterns of Work and Unemployment in Seafood Processing Workers' Households
Skilled and Unskilled in Workers' Households: Comparisons of Ethnicity and Seasonality
Household Complexity


6. Foundations of Divergence Within the Seafood Processing Labor Force


The Seafood Processing Labor Force: An Exercise in Classification
Labor Force Implications of Limited Entry and Coastal Development


7. Family, Community, and the Construction of Labor Markets in the U. S. Poultry Industry


Sexual and Ethnic Compositions of Plant Work Forces
Changes in Labor Force Compositions Over Time
Network Recruitment
North Georgia and North Carolina Revisited: 1988 to 1989


8. Swollen Hearts, Swollen Hands: Labor Relations in the U. S. Poultry Industry


Occupational Injury as a Reflection of Labor Relations
Injury, Worker Productivity, and Labor Control
The Developing Role of New Immigrants in Industry Labor Control Strategies
Formal Organizations, Worker Organization Among Immigrants, and the Overlap Between Agriculture and Processing Plant Labor Markets
Native Workers' Responses to New Immigrants in the Plants


Part IV. Conclusion: Case Studies in Theoretical Perspective

9. Towards a Theory of Low-Wage Labor Under Advanced Capitalism


Background to the Development of Legal Imported Labor


10. Networks, Reproductive Labor, and the Manipulation of Community in the Formation of Low-Income Populations


Theoretical Representations of Labor
Reconsidering Notions: An Anthropology of Low-Wage Labor Under Advanced Capitalism


Appendix A





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