Chapter 10 Global Competition and Local Advantages: The Agency of Samoan Factory Youth in an Untold History of the Automotive Supply Chain

In: Global Power and Local Struggles in Developing Countries
Masami Tsujita
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In August 2017, after 26 years of operation, a Japan-based multinational car parts supplier closed its export-oriented, labour-intensive manufacturing plant in Samoa, a small Pacific island developing state. This closure was a direct result of an Australian government decision to stop subsidizing the automotive industry. It is a classic example of the flow-on effects of changes in globalized supply chains and illustrates how the neoliberal economy has undermined the circumstances of workers in peripheral economies. In this respect, low-paid workers in global factories are typically seen as passive victims of capitalistic exploitation who remain silent in the process of development. This chapter, however, offers an alternative perspective. Drawing on Eric Wolf’s perspective on the totality of interconnected processes that emphasizes the nature of global-local and core-periphery mutual interdependency, it offers a case study that explores the roles factory workers have played in the context of seemingly irresistible forces of multinational operations in the cutthroat competition of the automotive industry. It concludes by suggesting that the global factory employment was a valuable opportunity that helped young workers become active agents of change in their life trajectory in the internationally interconnected webs of capitalist development The chapter seeks to contribute to the validity of the Wolf’s totalizing analysis in furthering the understanding of the effects of neoliberal-driven capitalist networks represented by supply chains on development on the ground and relationships to local socio-cultural organization. The findings of this study are primarily based on empirical information collected through direct observations while working at this factory as part of the management team for six years from 2010–16.

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Global Power and Local Struggles in Developing Countries

Contemporary Perspectives On: Europe and the People without History, by Eric R. Wolf at 40

Series:  Studies in Global Social History, Volume: 47/2 and  Studies in the Social History of the Global South, Volume: 47/2