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Re: <nettime> The Art of Sweatshops
Jeebesh Bagchi on Mon, 9 Aug 2004 11:02:08 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> The Art of Sweatshops

coco fusco wrote:

>Here is some data to replace idle speculation...

Lets me define what i mean by wage before we launch too much into
positioning games. (well it seems one need to explain one's temerity to
compare the so-called incommensurables!)

Wage is a monetary equivalent of the value required to materially
reproduce the worker. Importantly Worker can here mean a cohabitational
unit or an individual.

What i was asking was "is the wage in Europe and US, enough to sustain a
cohabitational unit or it can only maintain one person.".

Most of this so-called third world countries wages support a
cohabitational units (which in some cases includes older members also ).

Lets see a case in Bangalore. A monthly wage of $500 for a programmer in a
software production enterprise, means that she has a decent three room
apartment, with a domestic help. She can support her family with some
resource, like contributing to her siblings education, paying housing loan
of parents etc . She can save enough for a 30 to 45 days holiday.  Get a
personal transport if needed and can support a cohabitational partner.

Now, what would a comparable wage mean in US and Europe, in this scenario.

Secondly, what surprises me is the confidence with which exchange rate is
used to generate analytical clarity.  A secretary (the top level
bureaucrat) in Indian State administration earns about $1000 a month.  
What does this figure say? He is poor and going to just fall of the

I would seriously urge the third world saviours with Alexanderian zeal, to
seriously look into their own worlds and see what kind of social
arrangement are they so confident off. This confidence is giving rise a
whole new politics of contempt that is under pinned is so many of the
categories and assumptions about so called third world.

US and Europe are based on massive exploitation and extraction of surplus
from its working population. Its population is made to work hard and very
very intensely. This population have very little say in how this surplus
is deployed. (`Rivethead` just give a tip of the iceberg.)

The wage to surplus ratio is absurdly skewed in these spaces. And, these
spaces have emerged from one of the most violent periods in all of human
history. It expelled a major section of its population in one century and
then killed major section in another century.

In the same dreadful period the worker's cohabitational unit has been
reduced in size dramatically. Today to materially reproduce a unit of four
atleast two wages are required. Besides, in US these days things have
taken another turn. The biggest employer of workers are temp agencies and
in the process the wage contract arrived at after centuries of struggle is
being re-negotiated at a different power equations.

The problem, is that this exploitation and this reality is just not there
in discussions. It seems, as if there is no exploitation inside the
production units in these spaces. 420 billion dollars on defense
expenditures of US state does not materialise from thin air.

 Come on. Now we can have to coin a new term a post-exploitative society!  
The deafening silence on intensity and exploitation of labour allows on
one hand the packaging of the social ideal and exported to all of the
world. One the other hand buffers great moral outcry on aesthetics of
productions in `bad capitalism` spaces from any serious reflection on

The disparity in absolute terms that is presented in the wage rates
between so called first world and third world is more to do with
sustainence of and recuperation from the intense exploitation of labour.  
The day that intensity is generalised here, the disparity will narrow

Sitting in a smallish bar cum food joint, with a old friend from US, I
realised that a similar enterprise in US would require only one person,
working with high degree of efficiency and precision. Here, there was 4
people manning the services.

It is high time that the category of intensive exploitation is understood,
used and analyzed. Further, one needs to seriously rethink the social
arrangements that distributes and deploys the extracted surplus.

Life in many many parts of the world is not great. But, the categories
that takes implicitly and uncritically the conditions of labour of so
called advanced spaces within a pervasive state apparatus as desirable
cannot offer any fresh insight or imaginaries to our common futures.

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