Putting-out’s return

Informalization and differential subsumption in Thailand’s garment sector

in Focaal

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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Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology