Politics Of Production In a World Factory: The Global Fragmented Despotism In Foxconn

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 6:30 PM
Room: Booth 41
Distributed Paper
Thunghong LIN , Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan

In this article we describe some special characteristics of the world’s greatest factory (in terms of the number of employees) belonging to the Taiwanese enterprise, Foxconn group in Shenzhen, China. We argue that the factory regime has been shaped by three key elements: (1) internal globalization: it refers to the global brand names, especially the Apple group’s authority and interventions of the production process in the factory; (2) organizational fragmentation: the fragmented structure of corporate governance, that is, the vertical fraction of business groups (BGs) and the horizontal segmentation of employees belonging to different nationalities. The fragmentation led to the strong autonomy of BGs and incomplete information between BGs; and, (3) workplace despotism: the surplus of Chinese low-skilled rural workers enforced the arbitrary managerial power on the shop floor. According to the three elements, we name the factory regime as a “global fragmented despotism.” The organizational structure of world factory may be helpful for explaining Foxconn’s poor labor conditions and workers’ suicides happened in 2010.