Advertisement

Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 317–332 | Cite as

At the zero degree / Below the minimum: Wage as sign in Israel’s split labor market

  • Matan KaminerEmail author
Article

Abstract

Marx conceived of the reproduction of labor-power as a circuit in which the wage must suffice to purchase the commodities necessary to meet the worker’s “so-called necessary requirements,” which are “products of history.” In this article, I argue that, through ethnographic investigation of the wage as a sign of these requirements, we can arrive at a wealth of knowledge about how the wage helps to construct different groups of workers as belonging to different human types, which are often “bundled” together with categories such as race and citizenship. I make my case through the investigation of two groups of workers: young Jewish-Israeli citizens engaged in logistics work and earning the minimum wage, and migrant farmworkers from Thailand who are paid far below that minimum for their labor. I argue that the first group represents a “zero degree” of labor-power, defined by the legal and biopolitical concern of the state for its reproduction, while the latter is understood by its members, their employers, and the surrounding society as undeserving of such concern. Deploying the Marxist-feminist problematic of the social reproduction of labor power, I argue that, by affording different groups of workers, and their children, different standards of living and opportunities for integration into labor markets, the wage works together with other forces to lock people into embodied, inherited “types.” From this perspective, I suggest, some categories of oppression do not “intersect” at right angles but rather run almost parallel, and at times coming close to cohering—a finding with implications for both analysis and political practice.

Keywords

Labor Semiotics Israel Migration Social reproduction Race Class Citizenship 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This article originated as my contribution to a panel on remuneration at the American Anthropological Association’s Annual Meeting in 2015, which I could not attend. I would like to thank the organizers of that panel, Gregory Morton and Adam Sargent, who also gave me excellent feedback on a draft. In the years since then, I have received comments and encouragement from Joel Beinin, Jason De León, Dotan Leshem, Tal Giladi, Geoff Hughes, Carmel Kaminer, Alma Katz, Alaina Lemon, Zachary Lockman, Eilat Maoz, Salar Mohandesi, Liron Mor, Gregory Morton, Smadar Nehab, Katie Rainwater, Adam Sargent, Hagar Shezaf, Shahar Shoham, Andrew Shryock, and Hadas Weiss, and am grateful to them all. My research was supported by the Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Development Research Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Award, the Social Science Research Council’s International Dissertation Research Fellowship, the University of Michigan’s Rackham Program in Public Scholarship, and other awards from UM’s Rachkam Graduate School, Center for Southeast Asia Studies and Department of Anthropology. The errors are, as usual, all my own.

Funding

This study was funded by:

• Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Development Research Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Award, US Department of Education, Award No. P022A160004.

• International Dissertation Research Fellowship, Social Science Research Council.

• Rackham Program in Public Scholarship and various internal grants from the University of Michigan

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

References

  1. Angeles, Leonora C., and Sirijit Sunanta. 2009. Demanding daughter duty. Critical Asian Studies 41 (4): 549–574.Google Scholar
  2. Arlozorov, Meirav. 2018. Netanyahu’s adviser: foreign workers will receive less than the minimum wage. TheMarker, April 10, 2018. http://tinyurl.com/arlozorov-min [Hebrew]. Accessed 18 July 2019.
  3. Ash-Kurlander, Yahel. 2014. Immigration for agricultural labor in Israel in the shadow of the bilateral agreement between Israel and Thailand. Emek Hefer: Ruppin Academic Center [Hebrew].Google Scholar
  4. Aulino, Felicity. 2014. Perceiving the social body. Journal of Religious Ethics 42 (3): 415–441.Google Scholar
  5. Aulino, Felicity. 2019. Rituals of care: Karmic politics in an aging Thailand. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Balibar, Étienne. 1991. Is there a ‘neo-racism’? In Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities, by Immanuel Maurice Wallerstein and Etienne Balibar, 17–28. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  7. Barthes, Roland. 1968. Writing degree zero. New York: Hill and Wang.Google Scholar
  8. BBC News. 2018. Thai Labourers in Israel tell of harrowing conditions. November 23, 2018. http://tinyurl.com/bbc-harrowing. Accessed 18 July 2019.
  9. Berda, Yael. 2018. Living emergency: Israel’s permit regime in the occupied West Bank. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Bernstein, Deborah, and Shlomo Swirski. 1982. The rapid economic development of Israel and the emergence of the ethnic division of labour. British Journal of Sociology 33 (1): 64–85.Google Scholar
  11. Bhattacharya, Tithi, and Liselotte Vogel, eds. 2017. Social reproduction theory: remapping class, recentering oppression. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  12. Bonacich, Edna. 1972. A theory of ethnic antagonism: the split labor market. American Sociological Review 37 (5): 547–559.Google Scholar
  13. Bonacich, Edna, and Jake B. Wilson. 2008. Getting the goods: ports, labor, and the logistics revolution. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Bornstein, Avram. 2002. Borders and the utility of violence: state effects on the ‘Superexploitation’ of West Bank Palestinians. Critique of Anthropology 22 (2): 201–220.Google Scholar
  15. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990. The logic of practice. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Bourgois, Philippe. 2002. Search of respect: selling crack in El barrio. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. CBS (Central Bureau of Statistics). 2017. Paid income of employees from the 2016 household expenditure survey. State of Israel [Hebrew].Google Scholar
  18. Cohen, Erik. 1999. Thai workers in Israeli agriculture. In The new laborers: Workers from foreign countries in Israel, 155–204. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad [Hebrew].Google Scholar
  19. Cohen, Uri, and Nissim Leon. 2008. The new Mizrahi middle class: ethnic mobility and class integration in Israel. Journal of Israeli History 27 (1): 51–64.Google Scholar
  20. Cooper, Melinda. 2017. Family values: between neoliberalism and the new social conservatism. New York: Zone Books.Google Scholar
  21. De León, Jason, Cameron Gokee, and Anna Forringer-Beal. 2015. ‘Disruption,’ use wear, and migrant habitus in the Sonoran Desert. In Migration and disruptions, ed. Brenda J. Baker and Takeyuki Tsuda, 145–178. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.Google Scholar
  22. Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Arlie Russell Hochschild. 2003. Global woman: nannies, maids, and sex workers in the new economy. New York: Metropolitan Books.Google Scholar
  23. Farsakh, Leila. 2005. Palestinian Labour Migration to Israel: Labour, Land and Occupation. Abingdon; New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Fortunati, Leopoldina. 1995. The Arcane of Reproduction: Housework, Prostitution, Labor and Capital. Brooklyn: Autonomedia.Google Scholar
  25. Foucault, Michel. 2010. The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–1979. London: Picador.Google Scholar
  26. Frankenberg, Ruth. 2001. The Mirage of an Unmarked Whiteness. In The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness, by Birgit Brander Rasmussen, Eric Klinenberg, Irene J. Nexica, and Matt Wray, 72–96. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  27. HRW (Human Rights Watch). 2015. A Raw Deal: Abuses of Thai Workers in Israel’s Agricultural Sector. http://tinyurl.com/hrw-raw-deal. Accessed 18 July 2019.
  28. Jakobson, Roman. 1984. Structure of the Russian Verb. In Russian and Slavic Grammar: Studies, 1931–1981, 1–15. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  29. Junya “Lek” Yimprasert (Director). 2017. Missä Marjat—Where the Berries Are. Finland. http://y2u.be/GD9F4Ya80E0.
  30. Kalir, Barak. 2015. The Jewish State of Anxiety: Between Moral Obligation and Fearism in the Treatment of African Asylum Seekers in Israel. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 41 (4): 580–598.Google Scholar
  31. Kaminer, Matan. 2011. Zero grade labor: worker subjectivity in an industrial warehouse. MA thesis, Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University [Hebrew].Google Scholar
  32. Kaminer, Matan. 2016a. A Lonely Songkran in the Arabah. Middle East Report 279: 34–37.Google Scholar
  33. Kaminer, Matan. 2016b. Skill. Mafteakh: Lexical Review of Political Thought 10: 73–84 [Hebrew].Google Scholar
  34. Kaminer, Matan. 2018a. The Oksana Affair: Ambiguous Resistance in an Israeli Warehouse. Ethnography 19 (1): 25–43.Google Scholar
  35. Kaminer, Matan. 2018b Learning About ‘Life in Israel’ from Thai Migrant Farmworkers. Discover Rackham (blog). November 14, 2018. tinyurl.com/kaminer-learning.
  36. Kaminer, Matan. 2018c. Connections Yet Unmade: The Reception of Balibar and Wallerstein’s Race, Nation, Class in Israel. In “Race, Nation, Class”: Rereading a Dialog for Our Times, ed. Manuela Bojadzijev and Katrin Klingan, 107–120. Berlin: Argument-Verlag.Google Scholar
  37. Kaminer, Matan. 2019 By the Sweat of Other Brows: Thai Migrant Labor and the Transformation of Israeli Settler Agriculture. PhD Dissertation, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  38. Kashti, Or. 2014. Israeli Farm Employers Short-Changing Thais, Advocacy Group Says. Haaretz, August 14, 2014. tinyurl.com/kashti-short
  39. Kasmir, Sharryn, and August Carbonella. 2008. Dispossession and the Anthropology of Labor. Critique of Anthropology 28 (1): 5–25.Google Scholar
  40. Keane, Webb. 2003. Semiotics and the Social Analysis of Material Things. Language & Communication 23 (3–4): 409–425.Google Scholar
  41. Kemp, Adriana, and Nelly Kfir. 2016. Wanted Workers but Unwanted Mothers: Mobilizing Moral Claims on Migrant Care Workers’ Families in Israel. Social Problems 63 (3): 373–394.Google Scholar
  42. Kemp, Adriana, and Rivka Raijman. 2008. Workers and foreigners: the political economy of labor migration in Israel. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad [Hebrew].Google Scholar
  43. Kimmerling, Baruch. 2001. The end of Ashkenazi Hegemony. Jerusalem: Keter [Hebrew].Google Scholar
  44. Knodel, John, and Wiraporn Pothisiri. 2015. Intergenerational Living Arrangements in Myanmar and Thailand: a comparative analysis. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 30 (1): 1–20.Google Scholar
  45. Kushnirovich, Nona, and Rebecca Raijman. 2017. The impact of bilateral agreements on labor migration to Israel: A comparison between migrant workers who arrived before and after the implementation of bilateral agreements. Jerusalem: CIMI.Google Scholar
  46. Le Mare, Ann, Buapun Promphaking, and Jonathan Rigg. 2015. Returning home: the Middle-income trap and gendered norms in Thailand. Journal of International Development 27 (2): 285–306.Google Scholar
  47. Lemon, Alaina. 2002. Without a ‘concept’? Race as discursive practice. Slavic Review 61 (1): 54–61.Google Scholar
  48. Lentin, Ronit. 2016. Palestine/Israel and state criminality: exception, settler colonialism and racialization. State Crime. Journal 5 (1): 32–41.Google Scholar
  49. Levi-Strauss, Claude. 1966. The Savage Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  50. Levi-Strauss, Claude. 1987. Introduction to the Work of Marcel Mauss. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  51. Liebelt, Claudia. 2011. Caring for the Holy Land: Filipina domestic workers in Israel. New York: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  52. Lindsay, Colin. 2005. McJobs’, ‘Good Jobs’ and Skills: Job-Seekers’ Attitudes to low-skilled service work. Human Resource Management Journal 15 (2): 50–65.Google Scholar
  53. Lowe, Lisa. 2015. The Intimacies of Four Continents. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Lustick, Ian S. 1999. Israel as a Non-Arab State: the political implications of mass immigration of non-Jews. Middle East Journal 53 (3): 417–433.Google Scholar
  55. Marx, Karl. 1990. Capital: a critique of political economy, Volume I. Middlesex: Penguin.Google Scholar
  56. Mbembe, Achille. 2003. Necropolitics. Public Culture 15 (1): 11–40.Google Scholar
  57. Meillassoux, Claude. 1981. Maidens, meal and money: capitalism and the domestic community. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Nathan, Gilad. 2010. Issues related to the employment of foreign workers in agriculture. Knesset Research Center [Hebrew].Google Scholar
  59. Parmentier, Richard J. 1994. Peirce divested for non-intimates. In Signs in Society: Studies in Semiotic Anthropology, 3–22. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  60. Poulantzas, Nicos. 1987. Political power and social classes. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  61. Raijman, Rivka, and Nona Kushnirovich. 2013. Recruitment of foreign workers in the agriculture and construction sectors in Israel: the impact of bilateral agreements. Ruppin Academic Center. http://tinyurl.com/raijman [Hebrew]. Accessed 18 July 2019.
  62. Rainwater, Katie, and Lindy Brooks Williams. 2019. Thai guestworker export in decline: the rise and fall of the Thailand-Taiwan migration system. International Migration Review 53 (2): 371–395.Google Scholar
  63. Reich, Michael, David M. Gordon, and Richard C. Edwards. 1973. Dual labor markets: a theory of labor market segmentation. American Economic Review 63 (2): 359–365.Google Scholar
  64. Rigg, Jonathan, and Albert Salamanca. 2011. Connecting lives, living, and location. Critical Asian Studies 43 (4): 551–575.Google Scholar
  65. Robinson, Cedric J. 2000. Black Marxism: the making of the black radical tradition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  66. Rosaldo, Renato. 1988. Ideology, place, and people without culture. Cultural Anthropology 3 (1): 77–87.Google Scholar
  67. Rosenhek, Zeev. 2000. Migration regimes, Intra-state conflicts, and the politics of exclusion and inclusion: migrant workers in the Israeli Welfare State. Social Problems 47 (1): 49–67.Google Scholar
  68. Sabar, Galia. 2008. We did not come to stay: migrant workers from Africa to Israel and back. Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University Press [Hebrew].Google Scholar
  69. Semyonov, Moshe, Rebeca Raijman, and Dina Maskileyson. 2015. Ethnicity and labor market incorporation of post-1990 immigrants in Israel. Population Research and Policy Review 34 (3): 331–359.Google Scholar
  70. Shapiro, Maya. 2013. The development of a ‘privileged underclass,’ locating undocumented migrant women and their children in the political economy of Tel Aviv, Israel. Dialectical Anthropology 37 (3/4): 423–441.Google Scholar
  71. Shauer, Noa, and Matan Kaminer. 2014. Below the minimum—violation of wage laws in the employment of migrant farmworkers. Tel Aviv: Kav LaOved tinyurl.com/below-min-heb [Hebrew].Google Scholar
  72. Shoham, Shahar. 2017. Pickers and packers: translocal narratives of returning Thai agriculture labour migrants from Israel. MA Thesis, Berlin: Humboldt-Universität.Google Scholar
  73. Trading Economics. n.d. Thailand average monthly wages, 1999–2015. Trading Economics. Accessed December 19, 2015. http://tinyurl.com/thaiwage.
  74. Trubetzkoy, Nikolai Sergeevich. 1969. Principles of Phonology (trans: Baltaxe: C.A.M.). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  75. Vitman, Ariel. 2018. Netanyahu: consider abolishing the minimum wage for foreign workers. Israel Hayom, August 12, 2018. tinyurl.com/abolish-wage [Hebrew].
  76. Wilderson, Frank. 2003. Gramsci’s Black Marx: whither the slave in civil society? Social Identities 9 (2): 225–240.Google Scholar
  77. Willen, Sarah S. 2007. Toward a critical phenomenology of ‘illegality’: state power, criminalization, and abjectivity among undocumented migrant workers in Tel Aviv, Israel. International Migration 45 (3): 8–38.Google Scholar
  78. Willis, Paul E. 1977. Learning to labor: how working class kids get working class jobs. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  79. Wolfe, Patrick. 2006. Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native. Journal of Genocide Research 8 (4): 387–409.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

Personalised recommendations