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The Shifting Maelstrom: From Plantations to Assembly-Lines

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Chapter Summary

The authors draw attention to certain salient features of the process, which has combined elements of freedom and bondage, playing out largely on the terrain of employment-systems that have combined for four centuries the free trafficking of slaves and indentured servants with the contested liberty of wage-workers to abandon their employer. One of the most significant episodes in the history of European migration was just playing out: a migratory movement destined to continue until the outbreak of the war of 1914-1918. On the eve of the war of 1914-1918, industrial capital was already beginning to understand that it could not continue to rely on purely local recruitment of its assembly-line workers. In certain cases, the transition from sugar plantations to export-processing zones (EPZs) was remarkably smooth. In the case of Mexico's EPZs, the maelstrom is markedly more turbulent than elsewhere in the country.

Keywords: assembly-line workers; European migration; maelstrom; sugar plantations



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