Globalization and the Time–Space Reorganization: Volume 17


Table of contents

(14 chapters)

At the outset, though, and before brief summaries of each of these cases are presented, it is important to underscore two key points that guide the organization of the entire volume. First, capital mobility is a complex phenomenon that assumes various forms as different types of capitals move at different velocities. Second, capital mobility is a necessary and irreplaceable component of capitalism. As for the first aspect, we will consider three types of capital: financial capital, productive capital, and labor. Obviously, these three forms of capital are endowed with different features that affect their behaviors and their ability to move through time and space. While all these three forms of capital share the common requirement that they need to be utilized in increasingly accelerated manners if capital accumulation had to expand, they also display tendencies that favor financial and productive capital and subordinate labor. If effect, the subordination of labor to financial and productive capital is one of the primary characteristics of globalization and one item that allowed the rapid expansion of capital accumulation over the last two decades.

This chapter illustrates how labor is organized in a branch of export-grape production in the São Francisco valley, North East Brazil. It describes how Northern retailers' corporate strategy involves continually improving product quality, and how grape producers respond to evolving demands by attempting to increase the skill content of labor and labor productivity. Simultaneously, relatively militant rural trade unions organize agricultural workers in the region, often staging strikes, achieving significant gains for workers, and continually attempting to improve their position vis-à-vis capital. As a response, farms go to significant lengths to recruit, retain, and discipline workers they consider to be good and relatively uninfluenced by trade unions. It is argued that in order to better understand strategies of firms and developmental outcomes in new regions of export agriculture it is necessary to pursue a three-pronged investigation, focusing simultaneously.

This chapter probes the issue of capital mobility and its implications in the context of the globalization of the fresh fruit sector. In particular, it explores the relationship between productive capital and labor in two different Latin American regions: the Northeast of Brazil and Patagonia in Argentina. Employing a comparative approach, it studies the impact that the insertion of local production into global circuits has on local firms and labor. These relatively culturally and geographically distant locations are affected by similar phenomena created by the globalization of agrifood. Relevant among then are the marginalization of labor and a weak labor structure. While there has been the growth of local firms, this growth has not erased important weaknesses.

The objective of this chapter is to illustrate how globalization affects labor mobility and work. The impact of globalization ranges from a profound restructuring of productive agriculture and rural labor markets to the forms through which production and labor are controlled – including the internal and external systems of food quality and safety standardization. These aspects require a broad readaptation and modernization of food distribution models and the standardization of technical principles. In the sector of local food distribution, these changes have significantly affected the lives of those involved, especially in terms of increased competitiveness and the escalation of the demands associated with the enhancement of the quality of products. Moreover, accelerated technological innovations, such as information technology, have facilitated the compression of time and space and shaped forms of social resistance. In this scenario, the reduction of logistic costs in the production and distribution of commodities has become one of the fundamental conditions for the viability of large companies. This is more the case for industries that deal with highly perishable produce such as fresh food. Through an analysis of the perspectives of workers in the refrigerated cargo industry, the chapter illustrates the pressure that fall upon the individual routine of those involved in this field and the ensuing changes in this sector's operating standards. The study was conducted in the city of Recife, in the northeastern portion of Brazil.

Canada's rural economy today is a dynamic source of economic growth and jobs are available in the natural resource extraction, manufacturing, agri-food and service sectors, yet despite this relatively favourable outlook, a profound socio-economic transformation is taking place. Within Ontario, the nation's largest and most economically diversified province and the focus of this study, the agri-food sector seeks new ways to deal with heightened competitive pressures and unstable commodity prices, in part by securing a relatively inexpensive and reliable labour force, while transnational auto-parts firms have looked increasingly to small town Ontario as fertile ground to transplant new ‘flexible’, niche manufacturing facilities. This multifaceted process has had a distinct impact on the regional economy, migratory labour flows and community social dynamics. As Harvey (1996) makes note, the effects of capital's re-spatialization have been uneven, and the state's role in this process contradictory, simultaneously facilitating capital mobility while regulating labour's (im)mobility (see also, Peck, 1996; Antonio & Bonanno, 2000). This chapter presents research findings and examines the impact of capital/labour flows on the changing character of three small communities in the heart of rural south-western Ontario – Bradford, Strathroy and Tillsonburg – with a particular focus on the conditions under which migrants and immigrants are socially included and excluded from the communities where they work. Based on these case studies, I argue that while small town Canada has managed to benefit partially from opportunities linked to a globalizing economy, the formal and informal means of socially incorporating this new transnationalized labour force is lagging significantly behind, reflecting in fact a regressive turn in Canadian labour-market regulation, while the concern for sustainable community development is largely ignored.

This chapter presents the case of the coffee-growing region located in the southern portion of the state of Chiapas, along the Guatemalan border. This region was relatively prosperous until the 1980s, thanks in part to price support programs established through international coffee agreements. A short supply of labor attracted farm workers from adjacent regions. These were seasonal, undocumented workers who arrived from Guatemala and whose status of illegal immigrants fostered their exploitation. The liberalization of the international coffee market combined with a sharply reduced state intervention engendered the control over coffee production by a few transnational companies and the collapse of the economy of small producers. Combined with natural disasters whose effects were not addressed by the neoliberal state, this situation caused the region to be bypassed by Guatemalan labor that now prefers direct migration to the United States. This region also has been transformed into an increasingly underdeveloped area affected by outmigration. Chiapas has become a long vertical border for undocumented Central American workers as Mexican migration policy has toughened following the establishment of the US national security policy. In this sense, there is a stark contrast between the mobility of financial and commercial capital and the ease with which both move in and out from the region, and the obstacles imposed on labor mobility.

This chapter combines a global value chain methodology with the case of the development of the farmed Atlantic salmon industry in Chile to inform discussions regarding the globalization of economy and society. The research documents the shifting structure of the value chain from the north to the south as Chile replaced northern Europe as the locus of production and the major world supplier of farmed Atlantic salmon. Farmed salmon was supported by the Chilean state as part of its export-oriented industrialization model that attracted foreign direct investment (FDI) from northern TNCs. Chile's low costs of production combined with growing environmental problems in the north and global retailers' demand for large quantities of low-cost product resulted in the restructuring of the farmed Atlantic-salmon value chain as northern capital sourced the south as a lucrative production platform to service northern consumers. A detailed investigation of the rise in dominance of the firm Marine Harvest is provided to illustrate the process of industry concentration the Chilean farmed-salmon industry. This model has generated a legitimation crisis related to environmental degradation and labor abuses resulting in social movement organization both nationally and internationally. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the implications of the Wal-Mart Effect on the agrifood industry in particular and in the farmed-salmon industry in particular.

The effect of trade on poverty is an open question. Although trade may create opportunities in the form of new markets, producers must be able to switch their production and access these markets to reap the benefits from trade. Those producers that cannot change may be stuck trying to sell products in a market with increased competition from imports. In this chapter, we consider which Mexican farmers have been able to adapt to market changes afforded by North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). We find that although some farmers, particularly those with access to outside information through education or technical assistance, have moved out of corn production, a number of both subsistence and market producers have increased the fraction of their land in corn after NAFTA. We also find that market producers respond quite differently from subsistence farmers to agricultural and other infrastructural factors.

The studies presented in this volume are examples of the manner in which globalization reshaped social relations in the agrifood sector. In this concluding chapter, two fundamental points are presented. They are offered as a synthesis of the empirical evidence characterizing the contributions contained in this book and wish to add to the on-going discussion on globalization. The first of them refers to the fact that as capital moves at accelerated speed and reconfigures time, space, and social relations, it creates new contradictions. Second, these contradictions negatively and disproportionally affect subordinate groups. Dwelling on these two points, it is concluded that these contradictions also open up possibilities for emancipatory change as dominant groups are not free from situations that limit their actions.

Publication date
Book series
Research in Rural Sociology and Development
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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