Putting Class in Its Place: Worker Identities in East Asia

Putting Class in Its Place: Worker Identities in East Asia

Putting Class in Its Place: Worker Identities in East Asia

Putting Class in Its Place: Worker Identities in East Asia

Excerpt

ELIZABETH J. PERRY

The stunning success of East Asia's industrialization drive over the past half century has prompted many a social science effort at explanation. Although scholars have generally stressed the role of activist state bureaucracies in promoting economic development, an important subtheme in the literature spotlights the quiescence of labor as a key factor. The combination of strong states and weak workers is often credited with the phenomenal growth rates enjoyed by East Asian newly industrializing countries (NICs) in recent decades. Government regulation and repression, we are told, militated against unionization or collective protest on the part of workers and facilitated the exploitation of low-cost labor in producing goods for export.

Despite their acknowledged contribution to the seemingly miraculous expansion of their national economies, East Asian workers themselves were seen as politically excluded and impotent. Frederic Deyo notes of workers in East Asia that "nowhere -- not in their workshops, firms, communities, or governments -- have they been able to influence the political and economic decisions that have shaped their lives." Whereas an . . .

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