Handbook of Employment and Society
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Handbook of Employment and Society

Working Space

Edited by Susan McGrath-Champ, Andrew Herod and Al Rainnie

This Handbook deepens and extends the engagement between research concerned with work and employment and labour geography. It links fundamental concepts concerning the politics of place that human geographers have developed in recent years with the world of work.
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Chapter 13: Dormitory Labour Regimes and the Labour Process in China: New Workers in Old Factory Forms

Ngai Pun and Chris Smith


1 Ngai Pun and Chris Smith Introduction Drawing upon the experience of restructuring in the advanced industrial economies, a number of authors, such as Piore and Sabel (1984), have suggested that there is an epoch shift taking place within capitalism from a system of production organised along Taylorist and Fordist lines (mass assembly line, mass political organisation and welfarestate interventions) to one organised according to the principles of flexible accumulation (flexible production, casual labour, deregulation and privatisation through withdrawal of state interventions) (for more on contemporary transformations of the state, see Jessop, Chapter 2 in this volume). However, whereas such a shift may be occurring within the advanced industrial economies (though, for a counterview, see Hudson (1989)), the evidence from many parts of the ‘developing world’ in which industrial production is expanding suggests that efforts to characterise capitalist production as a whole as undergoing such a historical transition are problematic. In particular, the idea that we are moving towards an era of flexible production within the global capitalist mode of production does not seem to match the realities of many of the developing countries that are becoming ever more tightly incorporated into the capitalist world economy. Consequently, understanding contemporary changes in the capitalist labour process requires, we would argue, a geographical sensitivity, one that is open to how labour process practices are constituted in time and space (Harvey, 2000, 2001). For labour process theory, Burawoy’s (1985) concept of the ‘politics of production’ was critical for bringing back the political and...

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