Producing Immigrants and Workers: Borders, Migration and Class in an Age of Crisis

Friday, 20 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Tom VICKERS, Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom
This paper examines how categories of ‘workers’, ‘migrants’, and associated subcategories have been structured and mobilised in recent years within representations of ‘migrant crisis’ and ‘welfare crisis’, to facilitate capitalist exploitation. The paper situates mobility in relation to class formation and exploitation through the concept of labour process, which highlights the importance of capitalist control over movement, at a micro and macro scale, in order to extract surplus value from living human subjects. This analysis is tested and further developed by drawing on a programme of empirical and theoretical research between 2012 and 2017, concerning patterns of migration and settlement, labour markets, state policy and implementation, the media, and activism.

The paper focuses on Britain in particular. This goes against the grain of the general turn toward a transnational frame in many studies of migration and bordering practices, but has value given the persistent national organisation of capital, and the continuing significance of national divisions and connected racial boundaries in governing migration and migrants’ rights. This has added importance in the context of the UK referendum vote in 2016 to leave the European Union, which represents a turn back toward the nation, in political, cultural and economic terms and is part of a wider international turn toward protectionism and unilateralism supported by populist movements. Yet the British economy remains heavily reliant on international investments and export of services, and key sectors are structurally dependant on migrant labour. Through a detailed analysis focusing on this particular case, theoretical insights are developed that have international relevance. The paper concludes by proposing alternative, counter-hegemonic understandings of the relationship between borders, migration and class that are informed by grassroots movements and foreground solidarity.