Desert Capitalism: Maquiladoras in North America's Western Industrial Corridor

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University of Arizona Press, 1996 - Political Science - 232 pages
Progress does not come easily to the maquiladoras. These foreign-owned assembly plants have moved southward from the border into Sonora and Chihuahua, giving rise to the concept of "desert capitalism." However, the plants have not necessarily brought about the improvements in the lives of workers that had been so hopefully expected. Sociologist Kathryn Kopinak here examines the maquiladora industry in Nogales, Sonora, and explores various questions concerning how it is changing with NAFTA and other attempts at regional integration. Focusing on the auto-parts industry, Kopinak observes that few maquiladoras have taken steps toward more sophisticated technology and innovative labor practices anticipated by the "second wave" hypothesis of modernization. She argues instead that the apparent advances have not benefitted the overwhelming majority of Mexican employees by increasing their wages or involving them in the workplace. Women workers in particular are segmented at the bottom of the job ladder. Kopinak provides information on facilities in both Nogales and the town of Imuris to offer a balanced perspective on border and inland maquiladoras. Desert Capitalism draws on interviews with workers about their daily lives in both their home and adopted communities and on interviews with Mexican and U.S. plant managers. Community surveys, newspaper advertisements, and government records are other important sources of data. It also reviews and synthesizes literature published only in Spanish and utilizes creative quantitative statistical techniques. The book thus marks a significant study of people's lives that seeks to contribute to the understanding of ongoing continental economic reorganization, and it holds important lessons for scholars of economics, anthropology, political science, history, sociology, women's studies, and regional planning.

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Constructing the Nogales Maquiladora Labor Market in the Eighties
Workers Households and Community
Technology and the Organization of Work
Workers Reactions to Wages and Working Conditions
Heterogeneous Maquila Development and Corridor Integration in Crisis

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About the author (1996)

Kathryn Kopinak teaches political sociology and social stratification at King's College, University of Western Ontario, and is an associate fellow at the Center for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean at York University.

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