Border walls and passages: Effects on labor exploitation

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Contemporary borders have two effects on labor availability and exploitability. One is to relegate large communities of potential labor outside the borders of prosperous countries. There, they are available for high productivity, low-wage work in assembly plants, call centers, and other such industries. Capital and management can move fluidly back and forth across borders to take advantage of such working communities. The other is to impose legal status categories and unequal treatment on border crossers (immigrants and commuters); these impose various conditions of labor exploitability. The best-known case is illegality, but legal migration with various employment, location, and time restrictions is also important. One view of these two effects is that they constitute systematic state control of labor on behalf of capitalism. However, this neglects the importance of racism and, relatedly, xenophobia, within concrete historical capitalisms. The chapter suggests that borders be analyzed as processes emerging from complex political struggles between racism, capitalist labor management, and social justice struggles.