As Labour and Labourer

As a figure of waste, she represents the possibility of a human existence that is perhaps really worthless, and this representation is valuable in and of itself…For the managers of the maquiladora industry, her worthlessness means they can count on the temporary labour force necessary to remain competitive in a global system of flexible production.

Melissa Wright, Disposable Women and other Myths of Global Capitalism, (New York: Routledge, 2006) 200.

Recognizing the Disposable as inherent in global capitalism produces a context in which the working conditions in Mexico’s maquiladora zones moves from being unimaginable to a necessary element of global capitalist processes. As such, for Mexico to continue to be competitive on a global scale, it must remain in a system of “flexible production,” which includes a high turnover of workers to keep up efficient production.[i] While this necessity does not excuse the treatment of maquiladora workers as cheap and temporary labour, it does contextualize the climate for which these labour relations are legitimated.

Melissa Wright reflects on the case of Mexican maquiladoras, “[i]n the tale of turnover told by maquila administrators, the Mexican woman assumers the forms of variable capital whose worth fluctuates from a status of value to one of waste.”[ii] Further, it is this fluctuation between value and waste that comprises her appeal to her employers.[iii] The female maquiladora labourer, through these global capitalist processes, is conceptualized as an unskilled, temporary worker.  From gaining employment, her value as a worker is in a state of decline until she is makes up only waste as a labourer and as such is discarded. Wright continues, reflecting that

[t]he disposable third world woman’s body is not the same as the one that women workers bring into the workplace.  Rather, it is a body manufactured during the labor process via discourses that combine bits and pieces of workers’ bodies within industrial processes and managerial expectations.[iv]

Revealing the nature of the working environment where a woman’s sexuality and body, as it is broken down into usable parts, is controlled until she is no longer of worth as a worker, this quote encompasses the harsh experience of female maquiladora workers as disposable.



[i] Melissa Wright, Disposable Women and other Myths of Global Capitalism, (New York: Routledge, 2006) 200.

[ii] Wright 185.

[iii] Wright 199.

[iv] Wright 45.