Marginal is critical : a comparative study of marginal workers in Britain and Hong Kong

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Wong, Hung
  • Subject: HD

This study explores the rise of marginal workers in Britain and Hong Kong after the Second World War and argues that marginal workers are not minor, unimportant, powerless and transient elements of capitalist development. Marginal workers, however, are important and indispensable to the development of capitalism in both regions. The work and life histories of marginal workers in Britain and Hong Kong show that gender and ethnic inequalities are articulated through and intensified by class inequality. The overlapping of these inequalities creates different subgroups of marginal workers.\ud \ud The marginalisation of labour is the process of the identification and separation of marginal groups from mainstream society. With assistance from the state, capital has been able to increase its exploitation of and control over labour through intensified gender, ethnic, occupational and international divisions of labour.\ud \ud This thesis argues that marginal is critical. A marginal class location induces a marginal class consciousness, which is a counter, non-conforming and cynical attitude towards oppression and exploitation. Nonetheless, while the consciousness of British marginal workers is more aggressive, radical and well shaped, that of marginal workers in Hong Kong is more self-defensive, conservative and amorphous. This thesis suggests that these different patterns of marginal consciousness are a product of their distinctive class formation process: marginal workers in Britain have undergone a 'sedimentary' class formation, their counterparts in Hong Kong have undergone a 'disrupted' class formation.\ud \ud The 'sedimentary class formation' of marginal workers in Britain is structured by its marginal trap of downward mobility and low geographical mobility at the macro level, alongside active shop-floor struggle and strong trade unionism at the macro level. The 'disrupted class formation' of marginal workers in Hong Kong is caused by its permeable class structure and covert class struggle, alongside the lack of shop-floor trade union organisers and experience of struggle.
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    57 references, page 1 of 6

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    3 For a discussion of the difference between Fordism and post-Fordism see Harvey {1987} and Brehony (1995); Lipietz (1986) suggests another concept, 'peripheral Fordism', to describe the international division of labour between core and peripheral Fordism.

    • See Hakim (1995b), Allen (1994) and Henderson and Castells {1987} for global restructuring; Newby et al. (1985) for geographical recession and reorganization; Piore and Sable {1984} and Linler and Salaman {1984} for flexible production and the reorganisation of work; Akinson and Gregory {1986} for flexible management strategy at enterprise level.

    9 Various notorious industrial accidents in Asia were reported in Asian Labour Update issue 21, Apri11996 and issue 24, June 1997.

    10 Robin Cohen firstly introduced this term in his work, The new Helots, in 1987 (Cohen, 1987). I will discuss this concept in Chapter 3.

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    Atkinson, J. (1985) 'Flexibility: Planning for an Uncertain Future', Manpower Policy and Practice, 1, Summer, 26-9.

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