Entrapped entrepreneurship: labour contractors in the South Indian garment industry

De Neve, Geert (2014) Entrapped entrepreneurship: labour contractors in the South Indian garment industry. Modern Asian Studies, 48 (05). pp. 1302-1333. ISSN 0026-749X

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As neoliberal restructuring leads to the rise of labour market intermediaries globally, labour contractors are being vilified as unscrupulous recruiters and as wicked figures who exploit and harass. Based on long-term ethnographic research among workers and contractors in the Tamil Nadu garment industry, this article argues for a more careful and grounded analysis of labour contractors’ role and position under neoliberalization. Evidence is presented of contractors’ precarious position at the tail end of global production networks and three conclusions are drawn. First, contractors reveal themselves to be a remarkably unrecognized source of entrepreneurship, flexibility, and skills acquisition, which facilitates manufacturers’ participation in global markets. Second, despite their resourcefulness and resilience, contractors find themselves trapped between management and the workforce, and in an overall situation of vulnerability as a result of the informal nature of their activities and the vagaries of the neoliberal market. For many of them this results in a highly fluid and unstable class experience, in which they struggle to materialize aspirations for upward mobility. Finally, neoliberal conditions tend to undermine rather than enhance contractors’ entrepreneurial success and to weaken rather than intensify their power with regard to both capital and labour.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Depositing User: Jayne Paulin
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2015 14:16
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2017 15:17
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/52189
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