Research

 

You will find a complete range of our monographs, muti-authored and edited works including peer-reviewed, original scholarly research across the social sciences and aligned disciplines. We publish long and short form research and you can browse the complete Bristol University Press and Policy Press archive of over 1600 titles.

Policy Press also publishes policy reviews and polemic work which aim to challenge policy and practice in certain fields. These books have a practitioner in mind and are practical, accessible in style, as well as being academically sound and referenced.
 

Books: Research

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The concluding chapter draws the implications of each thematic chapter. Based on the reviewed literature and evidence it proposes a new concept for each of the themes, namely: the ‘logistics of migrant labour’ to highlight the relationality of different actors and migration infrastructures that regulate human mobility and the conflict-laden nature of such regulatory spaces; ‘social mobility power’ as a non-individualistic way to capture migrants’ mobility power within and without the workplace, centering migrant spatial practices in the labour process and global production; ‘mobility skills’ to describe migrant collective resources to move across the terrain of production and social reproduction; and ‘transnational mobility bargaining’ as the expression of migrant turnover power in the field of industrial relations. Established theorizations of worker power are thus revised, arguing that associational/community forces inside and outside the workplace may influence migrants’ ability to use their marketplace mobility through migration and to improve their conditions collectively. The book contributes to a new understanding of the politics of migrant labour that reverses the mainstream image of migrants as the ultimate form of vulnerable labour and calls for the need to overcome the historical counterposing of exit and voice in the debate on worker agency.

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This chapter focuses on the labour process in global production with attention to Export Processing Zones where migrant labour is subject to highly exploitative control regimes that limit the free movement of workers. The authors show how in these critical zones, the heterogeneity of labour supplies and its racialization and genderization are key mechanisms for the disempowerment of workers as well as the control of their mobility. They propose the notion of Enclaves of Differentiated Labour (EDL) to encapsulate how labour is spatially regimented and divided under specific regulatory regimes, and how the state allows for the disparaging of labour standards. While special economic zones in the Global South are the most significant examples of EDL, similar dynamics of migrant worker control and resistance emerge in different production contexts in the Global North. Drawing from a wide range of studies on migrant workers, the authors revise the notions of worker power considered in Chapter 1, rethinking the turnover of migrant labour as migrant labour mobility power and arguing that both work effort bargaining and mobility effort bargaining (Smith, 2006) constitute forms of individual and collective exit, leveraging power inside and outside the workplace, with important consequences for migrants’ working lives.

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This chapter shifts the attention to the realm of workers’ social reproduction to understand the power of labour mobility. The authors draw from research on dormitory labour regimes and on feminist approaches to transnational migration to establish migration itself as a strategy of social reproduction, but also of labour subsumption. Feminist research has shown how reproductive activities are interlinked with labour processes through various capital strategies including wage reduction; control of workers beyond the formal working time; and home work. The authors explore how these modes of incorporation of social reproduction map onto the terrain of labour migration and how the high turnover of labour through migration partly disrupts these processes of value generation. Considering the role of transnational families and migrant social networks in cheapening costs for employers, and the strategic use of welfare vis-à-vis its differential access for non-citizens, the chapter concludes with a focus on worker dormitories as paradigmatic sites of value extraction and the seclusion of migrant bodies. It identifies four different functions of dormitories as key forms of control of migrant social reproductive practices and the ambivalent effects that they have in increasing or decreasing the associational power of migrant workers.

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The question of labour turnover has been variously examined across labour and organization studies, but it has not been studied systematically in relation to international migration. In this book we tackle the question of labour turnover (the churning of workers in and out of workplace organizations) from the perspective of migrant labour. Here we build on the critical strands of labour and migration studies to shift our gaze to the social composition of labour (Wright, 2002), focusing on the specific drivers and subjective and social dynamics that link the phenomenon of labour instability to international migration. We consider the relationship between labour migration and turnover as emblematic of the wider effects of the intersectional differentiation of work and employment on workers’ lives and action for change in capitalist societies. Since the pioneering work of Hirschman (1970), the act of workers quitting their job, described as labour mobility or exit, has indeed been countered to worker voice and presented as an individualistic, opportunistic behaviour taken autonomously by workers, as opposed to engaging in labour collective voice over effort bargaining (usually expressed through trade union representation). The tendency to see turnover as a primarily individualistic behaviour can be found especially in the field of industrial relations, which privileges collective forms of action in the workplace, whether or not institutionally mediated by trade unions (see Smith, 2006; Beynon, 1973). In the field of organization and management studies, scholars have tended to favour a functionalist approach both to the question of turnover and the role of migration in flexible labour markets revolving around costs and efficiency issues for employers, while employment studies have concentrated on the impact of labour mobility on collective bargaining in the workplace.

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This chapter focuses on the ensemble of mechanisms, rationales, and infrastructures that shape contemporary cross-border migration, adopting an historical and multi-regional perspective. The authors draw from existing notions of ‘migrant labour regime’ (for example Bal, 2016), as developed in the context of semi-indentured labour in the Gulf countries, to show how the concerted action of multiple agents, including the state, employers, migrant networks, and temporary placement agencies, try to shape and regulate both the management of labour turnover across workplaces and the valorization of workers’ mobility across borders. They illustrate the ways in which different actors, forms, and logics of mobility have ambivalent consequences for the management of labour turnover. Based on historical examples such as guest worker schemes and colonial systems of migrant labour, up to the contemporary points-based and kafala systems as enforced by the transnational state, a recurrent relationship emerges between temporary migration programmes and the need to control labour turnover as a voluntary expression of mobility. Contemporary migrant regimes tend to adapt to both capital needs and the autonomy of migration, where the expansion of capitalist relations at the same time entraps and constrains, but also gives potential new leverage to mobile workers to improve their conditions.

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This chapter explores the conflicts around labour migration in the field of worker organizing. It firstly addresses the question of worker power in broad terms, to then consider how migration scholars have enriched past categorizations, including questions of migrant labour mobility, precariousness, and the relatively unfree labour relations that arise from immigration controls and temporary visas. Subsequently, we review the historical racialization of migrant labour and high turnover inside the labour movement, up to the contemporary literature on migrant workers in industrial relations and union attempts at integrating migrant workers, adopting ‘equal’ or ‘special treatment’ (Penninx and Roosblad, 2000). While across the Global North and South some unions appear to build significant alliances with civic actors to support temporary migrant workers, the question of whether migrants should be organized separately or integrated into institutional industrial relations bears testament to the ongoing biases within unions against the transiency of migrant labour. Drawing from research on grass-roots efforts at the self-organization of migrant workers inside and outside official unions, the chapter shows how the racialization and precarity of temporary migrant labour are being challenged from the bottom up by migrants, who at times succeed at winning their disputes despite their precarious conditions.

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Exit, Voice, and Social Reproduction

The turnover of labour and its significance for workers and employers has usually been considered at the organizational level as individual exit behaviour, and seldom in relation to the cross-border mobility practices of migrant workers within and without the workplace.

Drawing from labour process theory, the autonomy of migration, social reproduction and industrial relations, this book explores the relationship between labour mobility and international migration under a global and historical perspective.

Uncovering both the individual and collective actions by migrants inside and outside worker organizations, the authors develop a new understanding of migrants’ everyday mobilities as creative and life-sustaining strategies of social reproduction and labour conflict.

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This chapter takes a journey across different literature streams to review the study of labour turnover since the modern factory of the early 20th century, to then move to approaches to turnover and mobility power across labour process theory, comparative political economy, and critical migration scholarship. The authors explore the ambivalent efforts of capital at both facilitating and constraining mobility in the history of ‘labour capture’ and in relation to the movement of capital. The relatively unfree nature of labour in capitalism, showing elements of continuity with pre-capitalist forms of labour bondage and controls, helps in understanding why workers have always engaged with mobility strategies in the forms of desertion, migration, and quitting to counter or diminish exploitation. The theoretical literature surrounding labour migration shows how we need to promote interdisciplinary dialogue to unpack the moments of tensions that mobility engenders for management, and the opportunities it opens for workers to build forms of resistance both individually and collectively. The authors thus elaborate a compositional and transnational approach to labour migration and its autonomy that highlights the historical entrapment of such mobilities and workers’ ongoing attempts at overcoming it, in the labour process and beyond.

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This chapter provides a reflection on theoretical framing and contributions within the field of industrial relations, notably, system and stability theories, and the importance of the role of crises within them. The chapter argues that the main theoretical contributions in industrial relations have appeared on the idea of crisis as the focal point of the ‘labour problem’ notion at the centre of the field of industrial relations. The lack of a ‘grand theory’ of industrial relations is counterpoised with the significant existing and future theoretical contributions industrial relations can make to understandings of economic crisis, inequality and technological change.

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This chapter focuses on conflict at work and industrial action – topics that have arguably slipped down the agenda within industrial relations in line with the wider decline in incidence and extent of strikes in recent decades. These wider trends are considered in the context of the more recent, albeit limited, upsurge of industrial action since 2022 in Britain and elsewhere. The chapter then considers the reasons behind strikes and industrial action, some recent innovations in industrial action, and the enduring importance of ‘examining whether the means are available to workers to express the conflict they are subject to and part of’. The chapter ends with a discussion of the extent to which capital should be worried about industrial action.

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