Precarity and Industrial Transformation in Guangdong Province – a Theoretical Exploration in Régulation

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Brandon SOMMER, International Institute of Social Studies, Netherlands
This paper aims to capture the way that precarity is experienced, not simply in a moment of economic restructuring but as a contingent effect of capitalist transformation and how workers attempt strategies to understand the change. I will draw on worker experience of industrial transformation in Guangdong as a case study. Theoretically and methodologically I will combine the French Régulation School and Archer’s Morphogenetic approach to elucidate both the economic foundations essential to the Guangdong economy from a Régulation perspective and the ways in which workers understand and interpret those foundations. As a leading school in understanding transformations in Capitalism, the French Regulation School offers a solid platform to begin to understand the economic foundations of Guangdong but its theory of agency is not fully developed which restricts its ability to elucidate potential synergies for individual and collective social action. This paper will explore the theoretical aspects of my research by further developing the concept of agency by introducing the Morphogenetic Approach as a compatible and useful theory of structure and agency to link two key concepts of French Régulation, first, Growth Regimes as distinctive configurations of economic structures that create a specific form of value accumulation. Second, Modes of Regulation as a type of Archerian agency embodying the ideas of Growth Regimes acting and reacting according to how individuals and groups interpret the embodiment. This paper then asks two questions; firstly, what is a Mode of Regulation and how does it work. Secondly, what is the relationship between Growth Regimes and Modes of Regulation and does the continuities/discontinuities between these concepts help to explain precarity. As a mostly theoretical paper I will draw on the case study only to offer illustrative examples to make the concepts sharper.