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Putting-out’s return

Informalization and differential subsumption in Thailand’s garment sector

Stephen Campbell

Keywords: Burma/Myanmar; informalization; putting-out system; subsumption; Thailand

Th is article engages Karl Marx’s account of labor’s historical subsumption to capital through an analysis of informalization in Thailand’s garment sector. In a historicist reading of Marx, the transition from formal to real subsumption, as in the shift from home-based putting-out work to factory-based wage labor, is unidirectional. The late twentieth-century proliferation of forms of labor that are but “formally subsumed” to capital challenges this linear narrative. Informalization in Thailand’s garment sector has entailed a shift from the real subsumption of factory-based wage labor to forms of home-based putting-out work subsumed “merely formally” to capital. Consequently, a nonhistoricist reading of Marx’s subsumption analytic remains relevant for understanding tensions within contemporary forms of putting-out work. Attention, as well, to the role of class struggle in mediating capitalist development reveals consistent logics in putting-out’s historical decline and its contemporary resurgence.

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