Monday, January 14, 2013

Kathleen C. Schwartzman's "The Chicken Trail"

Kathleen C. Schwartzman is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona. She is the author of The Social Origins of Democratic Collapse: The First Portuguese Republic in the Global Economy.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Chicken Trail: Following Workers, Migrants, and Corporations across the Americas, and reported the following:
This study highlights the contemporary American dilemma: economic transformations have left the U.S. labor market with jobs that “nobody wants,” jobs that are shipped overseas, and jobs for which American workers are unqualified. It also highlights the Global Dilemma: in developing nations, as rural survival continues to be undermined by international trade, people attempt to alleviate their poverty by packing their suitcases and abandoning their country. The Chicken Trail demonstrates how the externalities of free trade and neoliberalism become the social problems of nations and the tragedies of individuals.

This book describes three concurrent population displacements: African American workers in the southeastern U.S; peasants in rural Mexico; and Mexican emigrants. It links each of them to the unfolding global processes that converged in the middle 1990s—a period of exceptional growth in both trade and migration.

Page 99 summarizes the previous analysis of the displacement of African Americans. “In short, immigrant hiring (ethnic displacement) provided a way to resolve the labor conflict without compromising the surplus value extracted from the production process. For immigrant hiring, the mid-1990s was a watershed. Employers were not passively ‘faced with a choice’ of workers, they created that choice by the early active and intentional recruitment of immigrant workers.”

Page 99 introduces the Mexican analysis: “this completes the ‘demand’ or ‘pull’ side of the migration story. However, recruitment and subsequent chain migration could not have been so successful without corresponding transformations in, and ‘pushes’ from Mexico.” What follows beginning with the next chapter is an analysis of the effects of poultry imports on Mexico’s industry and the countryside. Because the displaced smallholders found inadequate economic opportunities in urban areas, many continued their migration north to the United States. By the 1990s, however, migrant destinations were no longer limited to the traditional gateways; they now included the Southeastern United States. And thus the trail circles back.
Learn more about The Chicken Trail at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue