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Title: Reworking territory, assembling scale : labour's agency in Lao border manufacturing
Author: Brown, James Derek Alan
ISNI:       0000 0004 6500 5822
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis provides an analysis of how labour's agency in Savannakhet border manufacturing industry is transforming Lao economic territory within the context of Greater Mekong Subregion integration. The analysis builds on autonomist Marxist and spatial understandings of labour's agency to illuminate global corporate relocation, state territorialization, and local development. The methodological and theoretical approach presented focuses on the capacity of everyday, unorganized, spatialized agency of workers to impact on labour relations and broader economic development. The approach thus challenges a common framing of labour's agency as primarily relevant in terms of trade unions and resistance, and stimulates a broader consideration of workers' agency in development. The enquiry draws on the concept of territorial coherence to link workers' agency to broader processes of spatial economic organization. Workers' everyday and spatial practices within a form of territorial organization provide an opportunity to reconsider how the relocation of global manufacturing firms may be problematized by local conditions. In this light, misconceptions about 'the race to the bottom', which place power primarily with mobile capital, are refuted. Worker's spatialized actions and practices emerge as a terrain of struggle in their incorporation into global manufacturing, revealing how labour and capital condition and constrain each other. Territorial coherence also provides a framework to illuminate state territorialization projects undertaken to connect with global capital. Analysis of the case indicates that state territory continues to structure and striate global economic space despite the claims for the openness of relational, networked forms of spatiality. The two theoretical approaches combine to illuminate labour dynamics in Lao border manufacturing. Shedding light on the prospects of Lao industrialization and regionalization policy, limited and partial development and integration is suggested. In regard to the contested reworking of territory, border manufacturing in Savannakhet signals themes of broader relevance in global economic development.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral