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ISR Issue 52, March–April 2007

The changing working class
Is the U.S. becoming post-industrial?


THE ENTIRE history of capitalism is punctuated by workers struggles, strikes, and revolutions—from the Paris Commune of 1871 to the 2001 resource wars in Bolivia. Yet the intermittent character of the class struggle and the constantly shifting nature of capitalist production have always provided space for those who argue that Marxism’s emphasis on the revolutionary role of the working class is irrelevant or outmoded. As the late U.S. socialist Hal Draper put it, declarations about the end of the working class have been made “since the early nineteenth century, that is, virtually since the rise of the modern proletariat.”1

In the 1970s, the liberal post-Marxist Daniel Bell, laid out in The Coming of Post-Industrial Society,2 what has become common to all post-industrial theories: that structural changes to the economy—the shift to services, the decline of traditional industries, and the rise of an information economy—have made the Marxist concept of working-class struggle anachronistic. The argument has now become an article of faith in the mainstream media and academia, reinforced in the past three decades by declining strikes and union rates. “The information age has arrived,” wrote economist Jeremy Rifkin in a 1995 book, The End of Work, which presents the more extreme case. “In the years ahead, new, more sophisticated software technologies are going to bring civilization ever closer to a near-workerless world.”3

The declining working-class argument has also found wide support on the Left, summed up most famously in the title of André Gorz’s 1980 book: Farewell to the Working Class. Ernesto Laclau and Chantalle Mouffe, in their 1985 work Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, summed up the thinking among wide layers of the Left when they argued that the “new social movements” rather than the working class would now be at the center of any social transformation.4 Stanley Aronowitz, writing in the early 1990s, concluded that the industrial mode of production had been supplanted by a “knowledge mode of production,” and that intellectuals might become “the only genuine political class.”5

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri—among the founders of the autonomist movement in Italy—have articulated in their book Empire the most important contemporary left version of this argument, proposing that capitalism has become “non-material” with the decline of manufacturing and the rise of services and information technology. Whereas once “industry and the manufacture of durable goods occupied the privileged position,” a new system has developed in which “providing services and manipulating information are at the heart of production.”6 Capital, now free from the iron and furnaces of industry, can spread like water across the smooth economic surface of the globe. They argue, “In a previous era the category of the proletariat centered on and at times was effectively subsumed under the industrial working class whose paradigmatic figure was the male mass factory worker…. Today that working class has all but disappeared from view. It has not ceased to exist, but it has been displaced from its privileged position in the capitalist economy.”7 These changes have, they claim, dislocated the working class as the central revolutionary actor, replaced by something they call “the multitude.”8

To be sure, world capitalism has seen significant changes to how industrial production is structured and organized at all levels—including across national lines. There have been profound impacts on the working class in general—and on the industrial working class in particular. Depending on how one reckons the criteria, the U.S. may have lost around a half million net manufacturing jobs between 1988 and 1998.9 A different study shows an increase in the size of the U.S. manufacturing workforce of five million from 1971 to 1998—a total of 31,071,000—despite its relative decline as a percentage of the workforce.10 The United Kingdom and France have experienced far greater declines in their industrial workforce.11

What most post-industrial concepts have in common—and their use by figures such as Hardt and Negri—is that they narrowly identify the working class as industrial workers, rather than the class of wage workers as a whole, which also includes white-collar workers, service workers, transportation workers, and so on. They also mistakenly associate the relative decline in the number of industrial workers with their declining social weight in the economy, when rising productivity in industry actually increases the potential power of industrial workers even if their relative numbers might diminish. Finally, post-industrial theory tends to conflate the decline in labor parties, trade unions, and other forms of traditional working-class organizations—the product of several decades of neoliberal attacks—with structural changes that they argue render the class less powerful, or even powerless.

The Marxist concept of the working class is far more dynamic. While employers utilize structural shifts—deregulation, industrial decline in one region, and so on—to weaken working-class organization and lower labor costs, these changes are not permanent barriers to working-class struggle. On the contrary, they guarantee that the working class will be compelled to resist. The revival of such resistance is a political and organizational question rather than a structural one. Marxism locates within capitalism—driven to accumulate capital through the expropriation of surplus value—the class whose labor turns the wheels of production, however shaped, and therefore possesses the power to transform it. The working class, though its structure has changed dramatically over time, still possesses the centrality and power attributed to it by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels when they wrote the Communist Manifesto.

The logic of accumulation

The relative decline in manufacturing jobs and changes to the structure of work is a product of the historical logic of capital accumulation and an inevitable result of the mechanization of production, not of the declining importance of mass production. As capitalist firms use more and more automation and technology to increase productivity, more and more is produced with fewer workers. Capitalist firms—and states—are in competition with one another. Different capitalist firms aim to sell more of their products on the market, at a greater rate of profit—to undercut their competitors. The most important way one firm beats another is by finding more efficient and cheaper ways to produce commodities. It is for this reason that Marx and Engels wrote that the capitalist class could not “exist without constantly revolutionizing the means of production, and thereby the relations of production.”12

The result historically has been a tendency toward higher labor productivity, the advance of technology and the progressive shrinking of the amount of human labor necessary to set greater and greater amounts of productive machinery into motion. In Marxist terms, constant capital—machinery, physical plant, and raw materials expressed in value terms grows in proportion to variable capital—the cost of labor power. As Marx argued “the working population…produces both the accumulation of capital and the means by which it is itself made superfluous; and it does this to an extent that is always increasing.”13

Simply counting the number of industrial workers is therefore a misleading method to determine how important manufacturing is to the overall economy. Today, far smaller groups of industrial workers set into motion far greater productive forces than ever before. This process has shifted the structure of the working class, producing an increase in service-sector jobs relative to industrial production jobs. Since the most important capitalist method to maintain profitability is increasing productivity and the amount of surplus value extracted from the existing industrial workforce—this in turn requires a greater army of labor—outside of immediate production—whose role is to increase the productivity of the “line workers.” The shift to services reflects not a decline in industry, but its rationalization. These jobs too, are the product of a system largely based on the production of commodities and the accumulation of capital.

There have been national declines in certain industries from country to country. But this often reflects not a decline internationally of a branch of production so much as its shift elsewhere, a phenomenon that reflects the fact that capitalists exploit the “combined and uneven development” of global capitalism to find lower production costs. The relatively labor intensive textile industry, for example, never disappears; it just trots the globe in search of the cheapest labor. While there is an increasing tendency towards outsourcing and regional and global production networks, there are also limits to this process. Moving production does not result in “deindustrialization,” but in a re-organization of industry internationally. As Kim Moody noted in the 1990s, “Global shifts in production destroyed many union jobs in the developed industrial countries, but proletarianized millions of new workers in both developed and developing nations.”14

None of the changes in the structure of work dislocate the working class as the key agent for revolutionary change. The structural changes that have occurred can only increase the social power—not to mention the grievances—of the industrial and broader working class.

The working class by the numbers

The way some on both the left and the right discuss the question of “post-industrial” society, one would think that there has been a precipitous decline in the size of the world working class, or at least of the industrial working class. However, when taking the starting point as the Marxist definition of working class—wageworkers—this class has never been larger, either overall, or in terms of its industrial component.

A 1995 study for the World Bank calculated globally that around 479 million people were working in industry, 800 million in “services,” and more than a billion in agriculture. Taking out managers and small proprietors—using liberal estimates—there are more than 359 million industrial wageworkers globally. If one adds in the dependents of these workers in both services and industry you arrive at a figure of nearly 2.4 billion people—clearly one of the largest single blocs of humanity. The total number of industrial workers—not taking out managers and so on—in what the study describes as “low-income nations” (such as India and China) is 211 million, in “middle-income nations” (such as Brazil and Russia) 164 million and in “high-income nations” (supposedly) of the United States, Europe, and Japan: around 104 million.15 British socialist Chris Harman estimates that the total number of industrial workers in the advanced economies was actually 112 million in 1998—an increase of about 25 million from 1951, albeit a decrease since 1971.16

Certainly, the industrial working class has declined as a percentage of the total workforce in advanced economies of the Global North—and experienced a global restructuring that has put millions into chronic unemployment, shattered workers’ expectations for a “middle-class” life and wreaked havoc on whole sections of the older industrial cities such as Chicago and Detroit. But it is not because this class has ceased to exist or become marginal to the capitalist economy.

Increasing productivity

The staggering increase in productivity is at the center of most of the major changes in the labor process in contemporary capitalism. This process accelerated greatly in the 1970s when the post-Second World War economic boom came to an end—as Japanese and European firms came into greater and greater competition with U.S. firms. In the late 1970s—for the first time in the twentieth century—the U.S. began to show a trade deficit. U.S. firms moved quickly to restore their dominance, in part by constantly increasing the output of U.S. workers. Such productivity increases have been made largely through implementing new versions of so-called scientific management, in particular what is called “lean production” and through automation—investment in labor saving technology—new means of production.

Direct manufacturing accounts for 20–30 percent of economic output in most of the advanced economies17—and 80 percent of global manufacturing output is still produced in the United States, Western Europe, and Japan.18 Indeed, despite declines in manufacturing jobs in the U.S., the annual value of output in U.S. manufacturing (in constant 1992 dollars) increased from $2.9 trillion to $3.9 trillion between 1989 and 2000. The value of electronic equipment produced in the U.S. increased 155 percent between 1989 and 2000, despite thousands of lost jobs in the industry.19 Clearly, in terms of which country is producing industrial goods, the U.S. cannot be considered post-industrial. Nevertheless, there have been massive job losses.

Since the competition between capitalists requires getting more and more out of each worker—extracting more surplus value—as one firm does so, others must follow. Japanese auto firms introduced greater automation and lean production first, so U.S. firms were forced to play catch-up as the percentage of the U.S. market “lost” to Japanese firms grew dramatically.20 Therefore, U.S. firms implemented similar plans to overtake the Japanese firms.

As workers become more productive, more workers are relegated to the reserve army of labor—the unemployed—regardless of whether or not their particular firm was profitable. This surplus population forms a “disposable industrial reserve army, which belongs to capital just as absolutely as if the latter had bred it at its own cost.” This industrial reserve army then acts—as competitors for a decreasing pool of jobs—to create a downward pressure on wages. Again, the reasons are simple: “It is in the absolute interest of every capitalist to extort a given quantity of labor out of a smaller rather than a greater number of workers, if the cost is about the same.”21

The U.S. steel industry is perhaps the perfect example. Since 1970, the steel industry has lost more than two-thirds of its workforce.22 Much of the lost jobs have come from attempts to make U.S. steel more profitable and competitive with a growing world steel industry. The number of person hours needed to produce a ton of steel has dropped from ten to four since 1980, while between 1995 and 2000, the value of steel output in the U.S. rose from around $167 to $178 billion.23 U.S. firms have brought this about through the creation of dozens of new non-union “mini-mills.” Mini-mills process scrap metal and produce half the steel currently used in the U.S.—while employing a third as many workers.24 At the same time, world steel output is larger than it has ever been—more than double the average monthly steel output in 1980. China’s steel output has tripled in that past ten years, making it the largest steel producer in the world. Overall, world steel production is 65.3 percent above what it was a decade ago.25

What is true of new technology in steel—or electronics—is true across the board. During the 1990s boom, from 1994–98, annual non-residential investment climbed from $648 billion to $961 billion—largely in new information technology streamlining many aspects of production.26

However, this is just the latest stage of a long-standing process. Between 1950 and 1992, the value of non-residential structures in the U.S. climbed by 70 percent per person.27 This shows a massive increase in capital investment in the structures of commerce and industry. Over the same period, the increase in value of machinery per person employed was 160 percent. The value of the means of production is now more than double—per worker—what it was in 1950. In both the U.S. and Japan—the two nations with the greatest accumulation of constant capital—there was $40,000 of accumulated machinery per worker by 1992.28 The value of the means of production now exceeds the average annual wages of most workers.

This accumulation has tended to shrink the role of labor—the source of surplus value—in production. For the purposes of this article, we can conclude that especially in the most capital-intensive industries, industrial production remains central to the economies of the advanced nations of the Global North—despite the relative decline in the size of the industrial workforce. While there have been job losses, this is not because of a shift away from industrial production, but the massive amount of capital investment in industrial production.

Lean production

There has also been the increasing introduction of “lean production,” the managerial system first developed in Japan—while still under U.S. military rule. There are two major aspects to lean production as a system. One is the creation of global and regional “just-in-time” production networks. Second, lean production has come to describe the attempt to implement a new pseudo-cooperative management system within plants and other workplaces to increase productivity. It is often described as a negation of the “scientific management” techniques pioneered by corporate consultant Frederick Winslow Taylor. Taylorism—along with Fordism, the creation of the assembly line production system—promoted tightly timed production quotas and divisions of labor. Every millisecond of work was timed and programmed by management—to eliminate any “slack.”29 Lean production is far from transcending this sort of control. In reality it is a more dynamic version of it.

The inventor of the concept in Japan—which was called kaizen—reflected that the system was far from liberating for workers when he remarked that had he “faced the (militant) Japan National Railway Union or an American union,” he would “have been murdered.”30 “Lean production” puts together—ideally—smaller work teams in offices, shops, and factories that are made responsible for solving production problems as they arise. Constant pressure is put on these teams in speeding up assembly lines, reducing the number of workers, and eliminating materials. The workers are then expected in these “reset” conditions to keep up or increase the level of production. As workers then solve these imaginary production problems, the “production system is stressed again, in a never ending cycle of small improvements.”31 Workers are therefore enslaved—and many then discarded—over and over again by their own ingenuity.

Productivity and workers’ power

Speed-ups and the introduction of labor saving technologies have always been a part of industrial production—and far from ending class struggle they have tended to engender it. It was in part the introduction of new technologies that displaced craft workers that gave way to the post-Civil War movement for the eight-hour day.32 Resistance to Taylor’s scientific management techniques played a role in the agitation for industrial unions in the 1930s.33 Nevertheless, each period of rapid growth and technological change produces eulogies over the death of class struggle. “The automatic process continually displaces the manual worker,” technology enthusiast Stuart Chase announced in 1933.

What becomes of the class struggle theory? Where are the toiling masses, without a worker in the plant?... The official labor movement, it is significant to note, has not progressed in the new mass production industries, and in the next phase, the automatic industry, there will be nobody to organize. When this development proceeds to a certain point, which we may or may not have reached, the whole Marxian thesis stands in need of substantial revision.34

This was written just one year prior to the San Francisco general strike and the Minneapolis Teamster rebellion—and just three years before the largest explosion of working-class struggle in U.S. history—the formation of mass industrial unions in those very industries Chase thought impossible to organize. The conditions of capitalist production force the working class into competition with one another. Periods of class dislocation and defeat prompt the pundits of capital to declare class struggle obsolete. But the very same conditions that oppress the working class also compel them to fight.

Moreover, the strength of the class lies not in its absolute numbers, but in its relative social and economic weight. Leon Trotsky made this point in regards to the leading role of the Russian working class—in a country dominated by feudalism and a large peasantry, but with a concentrated and growing industrial proletariat in the cities:

[The working class’s] social power comes from the fact that the means of production which are in the hands of the bourgeoisie can be set in motion only by the proletariat…. This position gives the proletariat the power to hold up at will, partially or wholly, the proper functioning of the economy, through partial or general strikes. From this it is clear that the importance of the proletariat—given identical numbers—increases in proportion to the amount of productive forces which it sets in motion.… In other words, the political role of the proletariat is the more important in proportion as large-scale production dominates small production, industry dominates agriculture and town dominates country.35

Given the fact, as demonstrated, that today’s industrial working class sets in motion productive forces much greater than the workers that organized the industrial unions of the 1930s—one can only conclude that the potential power of the proletariat has been consolidated and strengthened. The use of that power, however, has not been consolidated. That is not a question of the structural weakness of the working class—but a political question posed to the modern labor movement.

Global production

Beyond productivity, one of the ruling class’s strategies to maintain increasing profits has been to outsource jobs in the search for lower wages. This has resulted in the creation of regional and global production networks, dislocating millions of workers—including in the old industrial heartland of the United States—the Midwest. For example, between 1990 and 2005, Illinois lost 222,500 manufacturing jobs and median annual family income declined by more than $6,000 since 1999.36 Similarly in the same period, Ohio lost 170,000 jobs and Pennsylvania lost 161,200 manufacturing jobs.37 Many of these were lost to increased productivity. But many were moved in search of lower wages—either within the U.S. or beyond its borders. There has been an increasing—but by no means total—movement of production from the older centers of capitalism to the less economically developed nations. However, it must be emphasized that moving production is not the same as deindustrialization. There is still as much or more industry then ever, it is just spatially dispersed.

There have been substantial increases in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)—mostly by transnational corporations (TNCs) based in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. While socialists like Eric Toussaint have rightly pointed out that most FDI continues to go between the advanced economies—the amount going to developing nations has increased.38 Between 1985 and 1991, FDI in Latin America—particularly in Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and pre-Chavez Venezuela—increased four-fold to nearly $12 billion a year.39 The World Bank reported that between 1985 and 1992, 60 percent of worldwide payroll increases for TNCs were in the economic South.40 In the 1980s around 20 percent of global FDI flowed into the economic South—doubling the total numbers in the 1990s.41 In 2005, an unprecedented $334 billion of inward FDI—36 percent of total FDI—went to developing countries. Today, China and Hong Kong account for two-thirds of the $165 billion in foreign investment into Southeast Asia.42

One could argue that there is a tendency towards industrialization of the Global South and a deindustrialization of the Global North, but that is belied by the continued investment in capital in the North and the fact that the majority of production—in terms of output—is still located in the U.S., Europe, and Japan—though China is the fastest growing industrial economy. Moreover, 59 percent of FDI still flows into the U.S., Europe, and Japan.43 The largest exporter of “merchandise” according to the World Trade Organization is, in fact, Germany—which accounted for 9.3 percent of global exports (in value terms) in 2005. Germany was followed by the United States, which accounted for 8.7 percent of exports. China ranked third, followed by Japan, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy.44

Instead, there is a tendency towards a global division of labor in industrial production, but this is not so much between a “post-industrial” Global North and an industrializing Global South but a realignment of production on a regional and global scale—still anchored in the advanced economies. Indeed, it is the combined and uneven development of global capitalism—or imperialism—that allows such production networks to develop. These new production networks are meant to capitalize on both the high productivity of the advanced economies and the low wages of the economic South.

It is the increased efficiency of transportation and communications capital—largely in the Global North—that allows for the increased spatial dispersion of production. This is in no small part due to massive capital investment within the United States and other economically advanced nations. The cost of ocean freight is just one-quarter of what it was in 1920. Airfreight costs just one-fifth of what it did in the 1930s. As Kim Moody notes, a transatlantic phone call costs less than 1 percent of what it did in the 1940s. That is not to speak of the Internet, cell phones, and so on.45 While information may move easily around the world, the “hardware that is the backbone of the new telecommunications network is among the world’s most immobile investments”—requiring a small army of communications workers to maintain it in the advanced economies.46 Nothing is more “material” than a thousand miles of fiber-optic cable beneath the streets of New York City.

Just as capitalism cannot function without labor, neither can in function without the most advanced means of production and infrastructure. This fact of production short-circuits the ability of the capitalist to move production at will. In this regard, Marx cited the case of English-owned cotton factories in a still economically underdeveloped Germany. Even though the wages of the German workers were lower than their English counterparts, their productivity was so low that the English factories were far more profitable.47 The problem was that the technologies employed in the German factories were less efficient.

This dynamic continues today. The gulf between accumulated capital of the advanced economies and the developing economies is even greater—even though many of the factories built in the less advanced nations are among the most modern. On the one hand, this retards the ability of firms to leverage the lower wages in the less advanced nations. But the uneven path of capitalist development has created a massive pool of lower wage workers—depending on the productive level of the nation or region—who are of great importance in the equation of global production. They are an appealing force to firms seeking to undermine the wages of their workers and quickly restore their profits. As Marx argued, state intervention further falsifies the economic reality. The U.S. state—through international agreements backed by the threat of military and political power—helps to reconfigure the production of the less advanced nations to its own needs. It creates export zones and eradicates the trade barriers meant to develop the national industries of the countries in question.

Therefore, there is a cost-benefit analysis for firms every time they consider moving production. It is one based on the relative importance of technology versus wages for the bottom line. For example, the cost of reproducing labor power is lower in Mexico than the United States. It has therefore been appealing—also because of its geographic proximity to the U.S. market—to outsource a series of jobs to Mexico. In 1965, through its Border Industrialization Program, the Mexican government created the “maquiladora zone” in a twenty-five-mile region along the U.S. border.48 In 1965 there were just twelve maquiladoras employing 3,000 workers. Recurrent devaluations of the peso lowered the average wages of Mexican workers49 and the zone’s development was furthered by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). By the mid-1990s there were more than 3,500 plants employing more than one million workers.50 But paradoxically, by opening up to the U.S., Mexico may have lost more manufacturing jobs than it has gained51 in industries designed for the Mexican market unable to compete with U.S. exports made in more productive U.S. plants.

Further, the jobs Mexico has gained have not been a wholesale movement of production from the U.S. but a partial one. This has included low-capital industries like textiles. But this also includes “supply chains” to production plants within the United States. For example, following the lean supply model of Japanese auto firms, U.S. companies located auto-parts plants in Mexico for cars that were then assembled within the United States. This too followed the logic of capital versus labor investment. In very rough estimate, parts plants require about one-half the investment in machinery of an assembly plant.52 German auto companies have followed a similar pattern in Eastern Europe. These are in turn tied to “just-to-the-market” supply chains in a bid to outpace rivals. These markets tend to be in the advanced economies—placing further limits on the spatial dispersion of production. This is why General Motors (GM) and Delphi built plants in Mexico, but not in tropical Africa.

Post-Fordism or global Fordism?

This is why it is incorrect to describe today’s economy—as some do—as post-Fordist. The spatial dispersion of production is more accurately described as global or regional Fordism where the old vertical integration of mass production—in which one plant produced most of a finished product “in house”—has now been spread “horizontally” across multiple plants and regions. However, these plants are no less of one organism. Each plant occupies a key link in the production chain—just like individual workers and departments in the old vertically integrated plants. The international movement of capital can be used to undermine working-class strength, but at the same time the integrated character of world production is also a potential weak link for capitalism, in that action by groups of workers in one plant or region can have an international impact out of proportion to the numbers involved.

In 1936, the event that led to the Akron, Ohio rubber workers sit-down strike was action by just twelve men in just one department. That shut down the entire works—of several thousand workers.53 Sixty years later, the strike of one United Auto Workers local, at a GM plant in Ohio, shut down GM production in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico—save at one plant—for seventeen days. One plant did to all of North America in 1996 what twelve men had done to one plant in 1936.54 This is because of the increasing interlocking of plants. That this has not been repeated is due to the severe political shortcomings of the AFL-CIO—and now Change to Win—leadership and the relatively low level of rank-and-file workers’ confidence after years of retreat.

The unevenness of global production

What, then, is often described as deindustrialization represents the displacement of industries in one place and their relocation elsewhere. Moving production is not a one-way street but a constant movement in dozens of directions. German, Japanese, and Korean auto firms have all increasingly located production in the U.S. South. Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota all added jobs and production capacity in Alabama in 2005.55 That same year the state produced 479,000 vehicles and is estimated to have employed around 50,000 autoworkers.56 Meanwhile the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 26 percent decline in the number of autoworkers in Michigan over the past ten years—a total loss of 80,000 jobs.57 So while it may be the case that Detroit is increasingly deindustrialized, Alabama has become increasingly industrialized.

This is not, nor could it be, a one-way progression down the “post-industrial” highway. Instead, it is the ongoing moving back and forth of production among different firms in search of profit. Asian and German auto companies are locating plants in Alabama for the same reasons Ford once located plants in the United Kingdom and Volkswagen located plants in Mexico: to produce closer to the market and get around protectionist measures. This helps explain why, along with productivity increases—despite the thousands of lost jobs among U.S. manufacturers and their decline in market share—the number of cars and light trucks produced in the United States increased from around eleven million in 1985 to twelve million in 1999—and the number of autoworkers declined by only a small amount.58

Rather than globalization “smoothing” the economic surface of the globe—or in free market booster Thomas Friedman’s words, “flattening” out the global economy—it has reproduced over and over the unevenness of capitalism. For example, low wages in China have undermined the development of industry in other developing countries. According to the Mexican government, this has helped lead to the loss of more than 200,000 jobs and the closure of more than 500 plants between 2001 and 2003.59 Substantial numbers of Mexican immigrants to the U.S. come from urban areas hit by deindustrialization.60 When China recently dropped “voluntary” quotas on textile exports millions of jobs were expected to be lost in countries such as Bangladesh, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. International Monetary Fund (IMF) mandated Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPS) have wrecked industries in some developing nations—such as Zimbabwe and the Ivory Coast.61

This process is conjuring up a massive global reserve army of labor—in the hundreds of millions—which can be used to pressure the wages of the formal working class. From this reserve army comes migrant labor and workers to be employed in the special enterprise zones of tomorrow. This is exactly what global justice activists in the 1990s warned of—a race to the bottom. Before the racist hue and cry about outsourcing some U.S. port management to Dubai Ports World there had been talk about outsourcing some port operations to Mexico bypassing the relatively well-paid and organized dockworkers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.62 In the dizzying race it should be noted that even China has its own rust belt of closed state-owned factories. Between 1996 and 2001, thirty-six million workers were handed their hats and shown the door.63

Capitalism will exploit both the high productivity and proximity to the market in the United States, and try to leverage the low wages it finds abroad. It will try in the process to have the best of both worlds—whether it is through the creation of regional production networks—or in slashing to the bone the wages and expectations of workers in the United States. What is called corporate globalization has industrialized and deindustrialized parts of the economically less advanced nations in addition to deindustrializing pockets of the more economically advanced nations. Certainly, Hurricane Katrina gave the world a window on the barbaric economic terrain of life in the United States. Some urban neighborhoods like Chicago’s Bronzeville have suffered double-digit unemployment for more than a generation.64 But even in the industrial heartland of the U.S., the expectations, combativeness, and conditions of workers’ lives have been sufficiently decimated that it is now possible to reopen the hiring halls.

Decatur, Illinois, which lost nearly half its manufacturing base over the past twenty-five years, became famous for its “war zone” labor battles of the mid-1990s at Caterpillar, Bridgestone-Firestone, and Staley. Caterpillar and the UAW entered a years-long battle over the company’s plans for a multi-tiered wage system. Eventually the company won and the UAW left local militants out to dry. With this new stage firmly set, Caterpillar actually hired 1,400 workers in Decatur last year. Starting wages for these new hires is just $10 an hour—down from a one-time high—twenty years ago—of $20 an hour. Such concessions are not being demanded because Caterpillar wants to outsource all production abroad. These demands are being made to allow for production in Illinois—but with conditions and wages more like those firms have found in Mexico—or that Hyundai has found in Alabama.

This constant reproduction of the unevenness of capitalism is not new, even if it has become more acute. As Leon Trotsky explained:

By drawing the countries economically closer to one another and leveling out their stages of development, capitalism, however, operates by methods of its own, that is to say, by anarchistic methods which constantly undermine its own work, set one country against another, and one branch of industry against another, developing some parts of world economy while hampering and throwing back the development of others. Only the correlation of these two fundamental tendencies—both of which arise from the nature of capitalism—explains to us the living texture of the historical process.

Imperialism, thanks to the universality, penetrability, and mobility and the break-neck speed of the formation of finance capital as the driving force of imperialism, lends vigor to both these tendencies. Imperialism links up incomparably more rapidly and more deeply the individual national and continental units into a single entity, bringing them into the closest and most vital dependence upon each other and rendering their economic methods, social forms, and levels of development more identical. At the same time, it attains this “goal” by such antagonistic methods, such tiger-leaps, and such raids upon backward countries and areas that the unification and leveling of world economy which it has effected, is upset by it even more violently and convulsively than in the preceding epochs.65

While the shifts in production have been devastating to U.S. workers—and workers around the world—they do not amount to the dislocation of industry from the United States—or the abolition of the industrial working class globally. Capital is “freer” than before, but the ability to move production is exaggerated in order to foster protectionism and nationalism among workers—as part of the propaganda that accompanies the drive to constantly increase production—and to create a sense of powerlessness in the face of supposedly unstoppable economic forces. While there has been a relative decline in the size the manufacturing workforce in the advanced economies, in other nations such as China and South Korea the industrial proletariat has exploded in size. These are certainly shifts in production, but they are not shifts from the centrality of production.

The many faces of the service sector

The size of the manufacturing workforce has declined in the advanced economies of the North—relative to the growth of what are called “services.” According to the AFL-CIO, most of the top ten jobs projected to grow the most are in services.66 In most of these occupations the average wage is under $10 an hour. However, the growth in services is not in opposition to industrial society but as a direct result of the needs of highly advanced—more productive—global lean production.

Proponents of the idea that society is becoming post-industrial frequently cite the growth of services as a sign of the diminishing importance of industry. In purely empirical terms they are right—services as a percentage of total jobs have skyrocketed while manufacturing has declined. But much of what are considered services are closely linked to industrial production. Some economists count the massive numbers of transportation and shipping jobs—for example in trucking—as services when these are quite clearly a link in the chain of industrial production—getting manufactured commodities to the market. Other parts of what are considered services—including many of the information technology jobs—are in fact “business services” as opposed to personal services, like hair salons, that have grown to facilitate industrial production at its new global lean production scale. And many jobs that are considered personal services, like hair salons, and public services, like education, are absolutely essential to maintaining a highly productive workforce engaged in production.

The broad category of services further includes workers who would have been counted quite clearly as manufacturing workers in the past. For example, the typesetter of the pre-computer age was always classified as a manufacturing worker. However, as Chris Harman observes, today’s typesetter, “working a word processing terminal for a newspaper publisher…will be classified as a ‘service’ worker.’” Even though the “work performed remains essentially the same, and the final product more or less identical.”67

Personal services and retail: The Wal-Martization of America

Of the top ten jobs expected to grow the most, cashiers and retail salespersons are among those at the top expected to add hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coming few years, and neither one pays more than an average of $10 an hour.68 More than thirteen million workers are employed in retail and fast food. These jobs are not post-industrial. No one goes to a Wal-Mart to purchase the idea of a lawnmower. People go to Wal-Mart to buy a lawnmower, a manufactured commodity. Similarly, workers at McDonalds do not produce, as Michael Hardt has suggested, a primarily non-material product, “service with a smile,”69 but cheap, fast food—mostly for other workers. That this is produced under the sickening yellow glow of the golden arches, and not in a cannery, does not make it any less the production of a manufactured commodity.

Nevertheless, the relative increase in the size of the retail workforce as opposed to the manufacturing workforce in the United States must be explained. There are a number of reasons for the relative growth of these low-wage service jobs. One is certainly the number of products being produced by workers making extremely low wages that have lowered the price of certain commodities, or at least kept their prices at or below inflation—like socks and compact discs. However, one of the main reasons for the relative growth of retail versus the relative decline in manufacturing jobs is that the massive explosion of productivity in industry has not been kept up with by a corresponding productivity increase in retail.

This does not mean that production has become less important, merely that capitalism either must figure out how to dramatically increase retail productivity—or that it may be unable to—at least at a similar rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—between 1987 and 2005, productivity increased 3.3 percent in retail and 0.7 percent in food services.70 By way of contrast, productivity grew every year by up to 3.4 percent between 1987 and 2004 in each of the four largest manufacturing industries. Productivity increased in computer and related manufacturing by 19.7 percent a year.71

This is part of the reason that larger and larger firms have more and more begun to organize retail along the principles of large-scale factory production. Increasingly, work that was once done in the informal economy (for example: an off-the-books hair salon), by small “mom and pop” businesses, or by the unpaid labor of women within the family—who now must work in the formal sector to make ends meet—is being organized by large firms. These larger firms are employing the same methods—of automation and lean production as well as economies of scale—to try to increase the productivity of retail and bring down the costs.

Wal-Mart—the quintessential, if negative, example of the new economy—is all about the rationalization of retail through low wages, a state-of-the-art delivery system, and leveraging its weight in the market to get the lowest wholesale prices. Like other firms before it, Wal-Mart represents the consolidation of capital into ever larger and larger units—this time on the delivery end of production. Tellingly, where studies have been done, Wal-Mart decreases the number of warehouse and retail jobs in an area. It has an impact on the retail workforce exactly like that of the lean manufacturing firm on production. As David Moberg reported in In These Times:

One 1999 study reported that 1.5 jobs had been lost for every job Wal-Mart created. A recent projection by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Center for Urban Economic Development concluded that a proposed West Side Chicago store would likely yield a net decrease of about 65 jobs after that Wal-Mart opens, as other retailers in the same shopping area lose business.72
This concentration of retail into larger units—like Wal-Mart—is frequently devastating for many involved. However, it actually increases the power of those retail workers. Wal-Mart’s “associates” have far more power than a comparable group of retail workers spread across dozens of tiny shops fifty years ago. While we have yet to see this demonstrated in workers’ mass actions, on October 16, 2006, 200 workers walked out of a Miami area Wal-Mart to protest policies that would force out full-time employees—and won. This may be a sign of things to come.

Business or producer services and global production

Hardt and Negri, like others before them, often point to the Information Age jobs—for example high-tech jobs—as transcending the “material”-based work of the old working class. However the growth of “information technology” and similar service jobs hardly reflects a break from production. As Charlie Post has argued, most “investment and employment in the ‘service sector’ is not in the provision of personal services (restaurants, hair and nail salons, etc.) but in ‘business services,’—legal and financial operations that facilitate industrial production.”73 As sociologist Saskia Sassen observed:

The territorial dispersal of plants, especially if international, actually raises the demand for producer services [specialized service firms hired by other capitalist firms]. This is yet another meaning, or consequence of globalization: the growth of producer service firms headquartered in New York or London or Paris can be fed by manufacturing located anywhere in the world as long as it is part of a multi-national network.74

In fact, the rise in producer or business services corresponds dramatically to the increase in FDI and development of regional and global production networks, as well as the increases in productivity overall. Outpacing the growth in other services, producer services grew from 6.3 million employees to 16.35 million employees between 1970 and 1991—when overall employment in the U.S. rose from 76.8 to 116.9 million.75 Far from the creation of a new economy detached from the moorings of industry, these jobs and firms have come into being to better coordinate the new industrial division of labor. Firms operating branches and plants in multiple countries must expand their command structures beyond their immediate expertise. More complicated computer technology and appliances require twenty-four-hour call centers to help consumers troubleshoot problems with their products, fuelling the massive growth of such centers in low-wage India, for example.

More complex animals tend to require a more complex nervous system. Production is no different. Firms suddenly must deal with legal and production questions across multiple borders. Planning production in a global just-in-time system requires more attention to detail. Specialty firms and jobs have arisen to deal with these questions concentrated in “global cities.” But they have in no way transcended production. They exist—no matter how seemingly removed—because of the needs of production and capital accumulation. As Kim Moody has argued, the “complex infrastructure of control becomes more important as production is less centralized.”76 Similarly, the growth of information technology along with producer services has come about not in opposition to industrial production but in order to better facilitate it on a regional and global scale.

“Public” services

There is another category of services that requires attention—in part because it is such a substantial element of the workforce. I will call this “public” services—even though the barbarism of neoliberal reforms means many of these jobs are no longer, in fact, public. These are a category of jobs—such as those in education and health care—which for the most part, are not about the production or distribution of commodities, or services provided directly to business. They are essential services for maintaining the labor force—or in Marxist terms, reproducing labor power. They can be contradictory, in part, because these jobs also entail healing and educating the middle class and members of the ruling class. Individual firms can make money at education and health care—but overall these areas represent a tug-of-war in the equation of production. Capitalism needs workers to be sufficiently educated, productive, and healthy enough to work—but capitalism would rather do this “on the cheap.”

Education and production

The increased productivity of the workforce has not simply been about technological innovation—but also, by necessity, increased investment in the skills of parts of the labor force. Capitalism requires a workforce to be able to use—as well as design and maintain—the more advanced means of production of its more productive industry. Paradoxically this increasingly deskills certain jobs as well as creates new skilled jobs. Following the Second World War this meant a massive investment in public education and near total implementation of secondary (high school) education. Technological advances—despite the end of the postwar boom—continue to demand this sort of investment in the education of at least a layer of the workforce.
Despite the return of systemic economic crisis, the number of people employed in education rose from 6,546,000 to 9,366,000 from 1970 to 1991.77 Despite all manner of cost cutting, the number of post-secondary (college) teachers is expected to grow from 1,581,000 in 2002 to 2,184,000 in 2012.78 This is because of the demands of the highly productive economy, not the regular platitudes from politicians of both parties about the importance of education.

While learning exactly when Chaucer wrote what in your high school English class seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with industrial production—education for the working class—from the point of view of the ruling class—is entirely about capital accumulation. Bill Clinton made this clear in his 1992 presidential campaign when his response to lost jobs was to emphasize the importance of education and “job training.” Education is seen as helping to create a more flexible workforce that can adapt to the ever-changing needs of industry—moving from the production line to the cashier’s position to the secretarial pool to the information technology department at the local bank. This expansion of education is the necessary corollary to the rise of productivity in the older industrial sector.79

As Chris Harman has argued, productivity growth “depends in part on the increase in the number of workers whose labor increases the productivity of these commodity-producing workers—i.e., an increase in the number of ‘indirectly productive’ workers.’”80 While these workers may be “indirectly productive” the methods of a squeezing them are very similar to those used to squeeze the directly productive. Perfunctory rhetoric about the importance of education aside, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is essentially lean production re-jigged for public education. By creating a web of unrealizable achievement goals—much like the false resource scarcity of kaizen—schools are set up to fail and then be restructured by the federal government.81

Health care

Similarly, with a more skilled workforce—or at least partially more skilled—it is necessary to keep more workers alive and healthy enough to work longer. Following the Second World War—in part as a concession to organized labor and in part due to the needs of capitalism—universal health care was extended throughout Europe and most U.S. employers began to provide their employees with health insurance. However, since the 1970s, there has been a drive to reduce health care expenditures in both Europe and the United States. Nevertheless the health care workforce has continued to grow—from just under five million in 1970 to more than twelve million today.82

Some of these jobs, in particular a substantial layer of doctors, are in fact middle-class professional jobs. However, when one looks at where the most growth is in terms of health care jobs—they are not doctors’ positions but nurse assistants and nurses. The number of nursing aides is expected to grow from 1.3 million to 1.7 million in the next few years, and nursing positions are facing a massive personnel shortage. There are currently 2.2 million registered nurses and there are projected to be 2.9 million nursing positions by 2012.83 The U.S. department of health projects a national shortage of 750,000 nurses by 2020.84
Nurses face a constant speed-up of their own in terms of nurse-patient ratios—the number of nurses per patient in major clinics and hospitals. However, nurses have also shown a relative combativeness once thought the reserve of industrial workers. The California Nurses Association led a successful political battle against Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s attempt to increase nurse-patient rations—and has signed a series of relatively successful contracts. One contract with Catholic Health Care West raised nurses’ wage by 26 percent over four years.85 At Saint Vincent Hospital in Los Angeles, the union negotiated a contract that garnered 32–37 percent pay raises and froze nurse-patient ratios.86

These workers—maintaining the health of the broader workforce—may not be producing steel or superconductors directly—but they are essential to production. Further, as “indirect” contributors to production (and “direct” producers in for-profit clinics and hospitals), they face the same kind of squeeze for productivity since hospitals operate on a profit-loss basis—and exhibit the same tendency toward collective struggle. Even those workers directly employed by the state—such as postal workers—are pressured to increase productivity in order to lower the state’s costs and keep the system competitive with United Postal Service and other private mail carriers.

A material world

While it would be far from scientific, if one adds together jobs that are quite clearly about production, distribution of commodities, and the reproduction of labor-power—you get a number that clearly represents a majority of the U.S. workforce.

Occupation Number of Workers
Mining 512,000
Construction 6,732,000
Manufacturing 15,307,000
Transportation and warehousing 4,205,000
Wholesale 5,641,000
Retail 15,047,000
Utilities 600,000
Engineering/related services 1,251,000
Repair and maintenance 12,410,000
Education and health 16,184,000
Public education 9,876,000
Public hospitals 995,000
Agriculture 2,245,000
Postal service 800,000
Restaurants/bars 8,412,000
Waste management 317,000
Public transit 231,000
Child day care services 734,000

When looked at this way, there are more than 88 million jobs tied directly to maintaining the working class or the production process—out of a total of 144 million jobs.87 These categories include managers and small proprietors. Nevertheless, this is a severe undercounting—as it does not take into consideration working-class jobs in producer services, social services outside of health care and education or communications dedicated primarily to facilitating industrial production.

This class has not ceased to exist—and it is not a class adrift in an ephemeral immaterial world. Nurses care for patients—who are usually workers. Teachers teach students—who, for the most part, will become workers. Laundry workers clean linens—not the idea of linens. Engineers design buildings, factories, and actual bridges—not merely the theory of bridges. Retail workers sell actual products. Transportation workers ship manufactured commodities. Miners mine coal and other minerals. Factory workers, one of the largest blocks, produce all manner of things—from the robotic arms that displace them to computers and processed meat. Farm workers, to invoke Woody Guthrie, “set on your table your light sparkling wine.”

The reality is that the system is still—in all it contradictory constituent parts—based on production for the sake of production and accumulation for the sake of accumulation. The motor of the process is labor—the producer of surplus value. And labor produces commodities—or helps other labor to produce commodities more efficiently.88 As economist Claudio Katz has argued:

[A]utonomists magnify the role of the excluded at the expense of traditional workers, because they place more weight on the relations of domination than on the forms of exploitation. They have lost sight of the neurological center of capitalist reproduction located in the extraction of surplus value. For this reason, they tend to take up certain notions of post-industrialism and interpret the retreat of the traditional workers’ movement as a symptom of the structural decline of work. They forget that, whatever the dislocations or changes in the labor process there have been, capitalism would cease to exist without workers’ labor. [emphasis added]89

The coming post-industrial society

The interlocking of production, the expansion of production into new regions, and the accumulation of capital to such a great extent in the advanced economies have a further impact on labor and on the socialist project. Each of these phenomena makes a global, democratic, and planned socialist economy a more and more concrete possibility.

This is because there is a tendency in the constant drive of capitalism to increase productivity to minimize the role of labor. This paradoxically increases the power of the working class and undermines capitalism. As Marx observed with irony: “If the whole class of wage-workers were to be abolished owing to machinery, how dreadful that would be for capital, which, without wage-labor, ceases to be capital!”90 The drive to accumulate capital and increase productivity undermines the viability of capitalist production and makes socialist organization of the economy more and more viable. As Hal Draper put it, “in proportion as scientific technology replaces ‘direct labor’ in production, it presses outside the bounds of the capitalist system.”91
The productive forces now exist to minimize labor across the board and simultaneously raise the living standards of millions. As Marx argues, this tendency leads toward a situation in which:

Production based on exchange breaks down, and the direct material production process gets stripped of the forms of poverty and contradictoriness. The free development of individualities [is the result], and therefore not the reduction in necessary labor time in order to constitute surplus value, but rather the reduction in general of the necessary labor of society to a minimum. [an outcome] which then corresponds to the artistic, scientific, etc. cultivation of individuals, by virtue of their free time and means made available to all of them.92

The tools being used to increasingly exploit the working class today, to extract surplus value, become increasingly tools that could reduce labor to a minimum—and free human potential from all its fetters. What observers see as the coming of a post-industrial society then is just that. However, the coming post-industrial society is socialism. To create that society, the arguments of today’s post-industrial enthusiasts—who reject the working class and its power—must be themselves rejected. As Hal Draper put it, the “long-heralded abolition of the proletariat is a reality of the future, but only over the dead body of capitalism.”93
Until then, capitalism must continue to profit and to do so it depends upon the exploitation of a working class. It is up to labor to self-consciously organize and impose its own solution to the barbarities of capitalism. Only then will capitalism—and industry, as we know it—cease to exist.

Adam Turl is a member of the International Socialist Organization in Chicago

1 Hal Draper, Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, Volume II: The Politics of Social Classes, “Special note A: Marx on the abolition of the proletariat by automation,” (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1978), 575.
2 Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society (New York: Basic Books, 1999).
3 Jeremy Rifkin, The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era (New York: G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1995), xv.
4 Ernesto Laclau and Chantalle Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (London: Verso, 1985).
5 Quoted in Sharon Smith, “Mistaken identity—or can identity politics liberate the Left?” International Socialism 62 (UK), Spring 1994, 27.
6 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2001), 298.
7 Ibid., 57.
8 The term appears throughout Empire, and is used in the way populists use the term “the people,” as in this passage on page 43: “We see now an ever more extreme separation of a small minority that controls enormous wealth from multitudes that live in poverty at the limit of powerlessness.”
9 Allison Thompson, “Industry output and employment projections,” Monthly Labor Review, November 1999, 38.
10 C. H. Feinstein, “Structural change in the developed countries in the 20th century,” Oxford Review of Economic Policy, vol 15, no 4 (Winter 1999), table A1. Cited in Chris Harman, “The Workers of the World,” International Socialism 96 (UK), Autumn 2002,
11 Saskia Sassen, Cities in a World Economy (London: Pine Forge Press, 1994), 60.
12 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto: A Roadmap to History’s Most Important Political Document, edited by Phil Gasper (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2005), 44.
13 Karl Marx, Capital Volume One (London: Penguin Classics, 1990), 783–84.
14 Kim Moody, Workers in a Lean World (London: Verso, 1997), 36, emphasis added.
15 Chris Harman, citing Deon Filmer, “Estimating the world at work,” World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, July 1995, available at Harman mistakenly cites 379 million for the number employed in industry, but Filmer actually gives the figure as 479 million. According to the World Bank study, the number of “wageworkers” in services and manufacturing by country tends to fluctuate between 75 and 90 percent (higher in the more advanced economies and lower in the least developed). I have estimated the number of working class people in industry and services by figuring that 25 percent of those cited as working in industry are managers and owners (and the numbers are likely far smaller). In terms of dependents of wageworkers I have estimated 1.5 dependents per worker (in both industry and services). This is admittedly not a very scientific estimate, especially when one considers the massive growth in remittances from migrant workers—say in the U.S. or Saudi Arabia—to their families in Mexico or Egypt.
16 Harman.
17 Larry L. Duetsch, editor, Industry Studies, Third Edition (New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2002), 1.
18 Charlie Post, “Empire and revolution,” International Viewpoint 341, June 2002, (figures from the 1990s),
19 Jefferson Cowie, Beyond the Ruins: The Meanings of Deindustrialization (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2003), introduction, iv-vi.
20 Deutsch, 3.
21 Marx, Capital, 788.
22 Deutsch, 118.
23 Lee Sustar, “Steel and the politics of free trade,” Socialist Worker, November 21, 2003.
24 Deutsch, 118.
25 Statistics can be found at
26 Cowie, ix.
27 Moody, 56.
28 Ibid., 57.
29 Sharon Smith, Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2005), 12.
30 Moody, 86.
31 Michael Yates, “The new economy and the labor movement,” Monthly Review, April 2001,
32 James Green, Death in the Haymarket (New York: Pantheon Books, 2006), 106–07.
33 Jeremy Brecher, Strike! (Boston: South End Press, 1997), 195, 200.
34 Cited in Draper, 575.
35 Leon Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution and Results and Prospects (New York: Pathfinder, 1969), 93–94.
36 Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, “2005 state of working Illinois: Executive summary,”
37 Statistics available at
38 Eric Toussaint, Your Money or Your Life (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2005), 32.
39 Sassen, 38.
40 Moody, 53.
41 Ibid., 55.
42 World Investment Report 2006: FDI from Developing and Transition Economies: Implications for Development, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 2006 (New York: United Nations, 2006), 17, 20.
43 Ibid., 17.
44 International Trade Statistics 2006, World Trade Organization, 2006 (Geneva: World Trade Organization, 2006), Table 1.5,
45 Moody, 69.
46 Post.
47 Marx, Capital, 703.
48 Justin Akers Chacón and Mike Davis, No One Is Illegal (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2006), 115.
49 Ibid., 113.
50 Lance Selfa, “Mexico after the Zapatista uprising,” International Socialism 75 (UK), Summer 1997,
51 Akers Chacón and Davis, 122.
52 Moody, 70–74.
53 Brecher, 198.
54 Moody, 31.
55 George Talbot, “Alabama’s auto industry revs up,” Mobile Register, January 15, 2006.
56 Ibid.
57 Joe Guy Collier, “It’s not your father’s auto industry anymore,” Detroit Free Press, December 27, 2005.
58 “U.S. light vehicle production by manufacturer,” at
59 Ted Fishman, China, Inc. (New York: Scribner, 2006), 149.
60 Kari Lyderson, Out of the Sea and Into the Fire (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 2004), 7.
61 Mike Davis, “Planet of slums,” New Left Review 26, March–April 2004, and Patrick Bond and Masimba Manyanya, Zimbabwe’s Plunge (Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 2002), 33–35.
62 Richard D. Vogel, “The NAFTA corridors: Offshoring U.S. transportation jobs to Mexico,” Monthly Review, February 2006.
63 Mike Davis, Planet of Slums (New York: Verso, 2006), 168.
64 William Julius Wilson, When Work Disappears (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), 19.
65 Leon Trotsky, “The draft program of the Communist International: A criticism of fundamentals,” The Third International After Lenin (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970) 19–20. Also available at
66 “Declining job quality: Here to stay?” AFL-CIO, Labor Day Report, 2004.
67 Harman, “Workers of the world.”
68 “Declining job quality?”
69 Debate between Michael Hardt and Chris Harman at the 2003 World Social Forum,
70 “Productivity and costs by industry: Wholesale trade, retail trade, and food services and drinking places, 2005,” Bureau of Labor Statistics,
71 Bureau of Labor Statistics,
72 David Moberg, “The Wal-Mart effect,” In These Times, June 10, 2004.
73 Post.
74 Sassen, 64–65.
75 Ibid., 56.
76 Moody, 58.
77 Sassen, 58.
78 “Declining job quality?”
79 Harman, “Workers of the world.”
80 Ibid.
81 “How many schools left behind?” Jessie Muldoon, Socialist Worker, May 13, 2005.
82 Sassen, 56; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health,
83 “Declining job quality?”
84 “Projected supply, demand and shortages of registered nurses: 2000–2020,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, July 2002.
85 Laura Cutland, “Eventful year for hospitals,” San Jose Business Journal, January 13, 2006.
86 George Raine, “Registered nurses ratify contracts,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 31, 2005.
87 Jay M. Berman, “Industry output and employment projections to 2012,” Monthly Labor Review, February 2004, 59–61, These statistics are from 2002. According to the BLS statistics used in Berman’s article, between 1982 and 2002, annual manufacturing employment declined by .7 percent in the U.S., while annual manufacturing output increased by 3.0 percent. Similar patterns are borne out for the United Kingdom, Italy, and Japan. According to Berman, output in manufacturing increased from just over $3 trillion in 1992 (in constant dollars) to just over $3.8 trillion in 2002. The total numbers on manufacturing are not clearly accurate—in terms of how they are counted—as this study cites just under 17 million manufacturing workers in 1992, while some other studies put the number just above 20 million. This study suggests there will be a leveling off of the decline in manufacturing in the coming years, and a slowing in the growth of services.
88 There is another—less central economically—layer of workers in fields that are not necessarily about direct commodity production or helping the production of commodities per se. For example, some workers are engaged in fields that are largely about the valorization of commodities—the realization of surplus value in the market—for example, through advertising and market research. Advertising itself may be a commodity, but when produced “in-house” it is merely a productive drain.
89 Claudio Katz, “Problems of autonomism,” International Socialist Review 44, November–December 2005, page 51.
90 Cited in Draper, 576.
91 Ibid.
92 Ibid., 578.
93 Ibid., 579.

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