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Rethinking International Development series
cover

Retail Worker Politics, Race and Consumption in South Africa

Shelved in the Service Economy

Authors: Kenny, Bridget

  • Gives flesh to precarious women service workers’ subjectivities 
  • Follows workers' struggles from white to black women's labour
  • Contextualizes debates around employment, inequality, poverty alleviation and labour politics from the perspective of a developing economy
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eBook $99.00
price for USA (gross)
  • ISBN 978-3-319-69551-8
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: PDF, EPUB
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Hardcover $129.00
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-3-319-69550-1
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
About this book

This book argues that we need to focus attention on the ways that workers themselves have invested subjectively in what it means to be a worker. By doing so, we gain an explanation that moves us beyond the economic decisions made by actors, the institutional constraints faced by trade unions, or the power of the state to interpellate subjects. These more common explanations make workers and their politics visible only as a symptom of external conditions, a response to deregulated markets or a product of state recognition. Instead – through a history of retailing as a site of nation and belonging, changing legal regimes, and articulations of race, class and gender in the constitution of political subjects from the 1930s to present-day Wal-Mart – this book presents the experiences and subjectivities of workers themselves to show that the collective political subject ‘workers’ (abasebenzi) is both a durable and malleable political category. From white to black women’s labour, the forms of precariousness have changed within retailing in South Africa. Workers’ struggles in different times have in turn resolved some dilemmas and by other turn generated new categories and conditions of precariousness, all the while explaining enduring attachments to labour politics.

About the authors

Bridget Kenny is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. She works on labour, gender and consumption with a specific focus on service work, precarious employment, and political subjectivity.

Reviews

“Retail Worker Politics, Race and Consumption in South Africa offers searing insight into the contested world of retail work and labour politics over the past century in South Africa. … Given the book’s ambitious historical scope and research agenda, its contributions are manifold. … As we confront the sobering realities of our present, Kenny’s book leaves us with a key question about the stakes and the political horizons of labour politics forged during previous eras of struggle.” (Jennifer Jihye Chun, Global Labour Journal, Vol. 9 (03), September, 2018)

Retail Worker Politics, Race and Consumption in South Africa offers searing insight into the contested world of retail work and labour politics over the past century in South Africa. Drawing upon twenty years of ethnographic engagement, Bridget Kenny shows how retail sector workers’ struggles for rights and dignity in the workplace have decisively shaped the terrain of political belonging in South Africa, despite sweeping transformations in the racial composition of the workforce, the contractual nature of work and employment, and the global organisation of the retail industry.” (Jennifer Jihye Chun, University of California Los Angeles, US)

Table of contents (8 chapters)

Table of contents (8 chapters)
  • Introduction: Precarity in Store

    Kenny, Bridget

    Pages 1-25

  • Servicing a Nation: White Women Shop Assistants and the Fantasy of Belonging

    Kenny, Bridget

    Pages 27-59

  • Rupturing Relations: Abasebenzi as Collective Political Subject

    Kenny, Bridget

    Pages 61-89

  • Regulating Retail: The Category “Employee” and Its Divisions

    Kenny, Bridget

    Pages 91-117

  • Signifying Belonging: Restructuring and Workplace Relations

    Kenny, Bridget

    Pages 119-151

Buy this book

eBook $99.00
price for USA (gross)
  • ISBN 978-3-319-69551-8
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: PDF, EPUB
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Hardcover $129.00
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-3-319-69550-1
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
Retail Worker Politics, Race and Consumption in South Africa
Book Subtitle
Shelved in the Service Economy
Authors
Series Title
Rethinking International Development series
Copyright
2018
Publisher
Palgrave Macmillan
Copyright Holder
The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s)
eBook ISBN
978-3-319-69551-8
DOI
10.1007/978-3-319-69551-8
Hardcover ISBN
978-3-319-69550-1
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
XV, 282
Number of Illustrations
12 b/w illustrations, 3 illustrations in colour
Topics