Beneath the Miracle: Labor Subordination in the New Asian Industrialism
University of California Press
Frederic C. Deyo
This important study examines the dynamics of the remarkable economic transformation of South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, which has been based in large measure on the production of manufactured goods for export. The competitive edge of these countries has in turn been rooted in the mobilization of a low-cost, disciplined, and productive workforce. This study seeks therefore to explain how East Asian governments and employers have attempted to manage this workforce. It also explores the extent to which workers are able to challenge management decisions and insert working-class agendas into public policy. "Beneath the Miracle" moves beyond current explanations for the weakness of East Asian labor movements which emphasize Confucianist culture, material welfare gains, and political repression. It shows that the organizational capacity of workers has been more fundamentally undercut first by the nature of emergent East Asian employment systems, and second by the sequencing of developmental change, with political controls preceding rapid industrialization and preempting political and union organization of the growing industrial workforce. Deyo undertakes an incisive cross-national comparison of employment systems and explores anomalous situations, such as that in Hong Kong, where labor is politically weak even under minimal state controls, and that in South Korea, where labor is in a stronger position despite far stricter regulation. "Beneath the Miracle" offers a fresh and compelling comparative analysis of Asian labor movements which could lead to a reassessment of many other developmental issues in East Asia. In his probing examination, Deyo provides an important and exciting contribution to the literature in this field.
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