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Subversive Migration, Citizenship from below and Democracy against Bordered Capitalism

Return of Marxian Macro-Dynamics in East Asia

ISBN: 978-1-78714-478-1, eISBN: 978-1-78714-477-4

ISSN: 0161-7230

Publication date: 8 August 2017


Neoliberal globalization is not a process in which capital freely moves around the globe and exploits labor tied to families, communities and nation states. Labor often moves, wants to move and has to move in this process. Labor required by the expanding circuit of capital exists as mobile labor. However, the movement of labor is allowed in a highly selective manner, depending upon the changing needs in the spaces of capital accumulation. Nation states continue to utilize borders to control labor mobility. These borders are boundaries built upon segregation between and discrimination against people of different races, genders, nationalities and residential statuses. Whereas this “bordered global capitalism” certainly made migration more costly, uncomfortable and risky process, it could not stop the increasing flow of migration. In fact, the mobility of labor has always been central to the reproduction of capitalism while the excessive mobility of labor or “escape” of labor often threatens capitalism maintained by borders as an external expression of exclusive citizenship that gives coherence to the otherwise class-divided population. This chapter looks into the ways in which migrant labor, despite all the constraints imposed upon them by borders, struggles to form “citizenship from below” by exercising social movement citizenship and thereby ruptures the fixed notion and institution of citizenship and migrant control regimes. The chapter does so by critically engaging with existing theories of labor migration and citizenship and presenting cases of the struggle of mobile labor in Hong Kong and South Korea.




Research for this chapter received support from the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant NRF2013S1A5B8A01055117 as well as Sogang University Research Grant. Some interviews included in this chapter have been done together with Dr. Raees Baig, the Chinese University of Hong Kong as a part of a research project titled “Capacity and agency of migrant worker activism: A Hong Kong and South Korea comparison” (funded by Chinese University of Hong Kong Research Grant).


Chang, D.-o. (2017), "Subversive Migration, Citizenship from below and Democracy against Bordered Capitalism", Return of Marxian Macro-Dynamics in East Asia (Research in Political Economy, Vol. 32), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 253-283.



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