The Shifting Ground of Globalization

Labor and Mineral Extraction at Vale S.A.


The Shifting Ground of Globalization: Labor and Mineral Extraction at Vale S.A. describes the transformation of the formerly state-owned Brazilian mining company into a Transnational Corporation, global leader in iron ore and nickel extraction. Through ethnographic research in Brazil and Canada, in places as different as Carajás, in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, and Sudbury, in northern Ontario, Thiago Aguiar dialogues with the theories of global capitalism and takes the case of the largest Latin American company as a telling example of the integration of the Brazilian economy into capitalist globalization and its consequences for workers, communities, and the environment in the first decades of the twenty-first century – when many celebrated the BRICS as an alternative to neoliberal globalization.

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Thiago Aguiar holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of São Paulo, and was visiting researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Sociology at IFCH-Unicamp and an associate researcher at the Center for the Study of Citizenship Rights (Cenedic-USP). He is also the author of O solo movediço da globalização: trabalho e extração mineral na Vale S.A. (Boitempo, 2022) and Maquiando o trabalho: opacidade e transparência numa empresa de cosméticos global (Annablume, 2017).

List of Figures and Tables


Introduction Walking on Shifting Ground
 1 A Period of Crisis and the General Direction of Change

 2 Global Capitalism, Transnational Capital and Labor: An Approach

 3 Framing Multi-situated Social Phenomena: Global Production Networks ( gpn  s), Corporate Strategies, and International Trade Union Networks

 4 Some Methodological Notes: Ethnographic Inspiration and the ‘Extended Case Method’

1From Companhia Vale do Rio Doce to Vale S.A.
 1 The cvrd ’s Privatization and the Internationalization Leap

 2 The Mineral Commodity Boom and Post-boom

 3 Changes and Continuity in the Strategy for Labor and Union Relations after Privatization

 4 Some Characteristics of Vale’s Iron Ore gpn in Brazil

2Corporate Power and Union Fragmentation Vale’s Labor and Union Relations Strategy in Brazil
 1 Entering the Field in a Period of Crisis

 2 Collective Power Weakened

 3 The First Driver of the Carajás Railroad

 4 Employee Representation in Vale’s Board of Directors

 5 The Challenges of Entering Carajás

 6 “It’s Always Good to Know Who You’re Talking To”

3Vale Buys a Canadian Treasure Restructuring, Strike, and International Trade Union Network
 1 “The Great Canadian Mining Non-disaster”

 2 A Brazilian Mother-in-Law for the Orphans of “Mother Inco”

 3 A Powerful Multinational Union with Deep Local Roots

 4 “It Can’t Be Easy to Have Me as a Boss”

 5 Defeat or Victory?

 6 Vale’s International Trade Union Network: A Frustrated Experience

4Global Capitalism, Pension Funds and Vale’s ‘New Corporate Governance’ as a Manner of Conclusion
 1 The Pension Funds and the Control of Vale after Privatization

 2 The Relationship with the Federal Government and the Role of bndes in the Company’s Financial Strategy

 3 Pension Funds and the Transnationalization of Vale

 4 Vale’s ‘New Corporate Governance’ after the Commodity Boom: Reorientation of Pension Funds and Increased Presence of Transnational Investors

Epilogue Vale S.A., a Transnational Corporation on the Shifting Ground of Globalization



Social scientists, geographers, economists, journalists and all interested in capitalist globalization, Transnational Corporations (TNCs), BRICS and Latin American studies, Vale, mining, labor and environmental issues.
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