Searching for the Missing Link in Economic Development: Productive Relations Under Stress in South Africa
The paper draws on empirical research in two labour-intensive sectors in South Africa, forestry and clothing. These highlight the varied, changing and adaptive nature of the labour-capital struggle. Clothing, textiles, leather and footwear contributed 60-80,000 jobs and ~8% of GDP in 2013. During the same period, the forestry sector employed some 165,900 people and contributed ~1% of GDP. Employment structures have been changing with a rise of outsourcing and informal employment, reproducing the marginalisation of labour. While economic theories make assumptions and conclusions about labour and the production process, these are usually at the passive end of transformations in capital accumulation. There is a gap in understanding the actual features and dynamics that take place in what Marx referred to as the ‘hidden abode of production’. A more nuanced understanding of the labour process, the distribution of power, and nature of worker organisation in production is fundamental to developing alternative conceptualisations of the relations between supply and demand.