Factory regimes and beyond: re-theorising production politics in post-apartheid SA industry

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Seminar Date
October 5, 2011
This paper attempts to show complexities in theorising politics of production and factory regimes, as well as in understanding workplaces, worker struggles and consciousness in post apartheid South Africa. By interrogating Burawoy’s (1979, 1985) politics of production and factory regimes, the paper seek to expand this analysis of production politics, arguing that a closer look at the Dunlop factory presents a case for what I call racialised order on the one hand, characterised by continued racial division of labour and tenuous relations between African working men and white management. The racialised relations are compounded by perceived lack of transformation in the management hierarchy. The paper then looks at how trade union militancy and shop floor mobilisation are constructed by invoking popular history of trade unions and through shop floor socialisation of new and younger workers by their older familial networks. The paper also argues that everyday life at workplace is played out through a construction of a set of unwritten codes of control, consent and resistance which I have termed shop floor masculine hegemony. Furthermore the paper asserts that production politics cannot be completely theorised by analysing factory regimes. The case study at Dunlop show that social formations beyond the scope of factory floor influence and are invoked in everyday life of workers in their construction of worker struggles and identity, mediated through rural, masculine life histories.

The paper is available here.