Global Capital: The Case of It Workers in a Transnational Space

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Ilana NUSSBAUM BITRAN, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany
Information and technology (IT) professional workers possess a form of capital based mostly in their specific technical knowledge. Following Bourdieu’s social theory, it is possible to understand the IT labor market as a field, where workers compete for better positions drawing upon the capital they possess. While in more classical labor markets the ability to do things and to respond to routine tasks is at stake, in the field of IT, the knowledge and skills play a central role. In Bourdieu’s terms, in the IT labor market cultural capital is highly valued. The ability to understand and resolve non-routine problems involves not only explicit technical knowledge but also a specific way of thinking, which is not easy transmissible and must be acquired over time.

Since IT professionals are highly requested in the Global North as well as in the Global South, moving between countries is a constant possibility. Whether skilled migrants find adequate occupation in the country of arrival depends on their ability to negotiate their domestically acquired capital under new institutional frameworks. The IT sector presents an exceptional case of study since it is very flexible and deregulated in terms of credentials and institutionalized entry barriers. Thus, IT workers can be seen as the prototype of the global knowledge worker. The capital they possess is valued beyond the national-state borders reaching transnational spaces where symbolic analysts can use their problem-solving abilities at their best.

The paper presents findings based on narrative interviews with IT workers in two countries: Germany and Chile. Using a transnational comparative design and showing IT professional immigrants’ trajectories in these two countries, national and transnational values of capital will emerge as a central aspect to discuss and understand the transformation of labor in our globalized world.