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Labor's Geography: Capital, Violence, Guest Workers and the Post-World War II Landscape



Abstract:  The impetus to labor geography—putting workers and their practices and interests right at the heart of our analyses and making these ontologically prior in our theorizing—is the right one. Because this is the right impulse, work in labor geography has tended to over-valorize both the ability of workers to shape the landscapes of capitalism and the long-term efficacy of any such “shaping”. Arguing from a specific case—the struggles over agribusiness in California in the immediate post-World War II California—this paper seeks to understand those moments when workers are all but powerless. It argues that those of us interested in politically charged and politically efficacious labor geographies need to retrain our focus as much on the structures within which workers live and work as well as on the actions undertaken by powerful forces within capital and the state whose interests are served by various forms of worker powerlessness.