A Race to the Bottom? Globalization, Labor Repression, and Development by Dispossession in Latin America's Banana Industry


  • Phillip A. Hough Florida Atlantic University




globalization, labor repression, Latin America, race to the bottom,


Labor scholars and activists draw attention to the ways that the globalization of production and market activities have caused to a race to the bottom in wages and work conditions that has instilled labor discipline throughout the globe. A number of recently published reports by international labor rights organizations, however, have brought worldwide attention to the ways that direct forms of violent repression, rather than the global market alone, continue to be a key modality used to control labor in the contemporary age. This paper examines the link between globalization and labor repression through a macro-historical analysis of one particularly repressive global industry: Latin American bananas. The author finds that the violent race to the bottom dynamic characterizing this industry is a perverse institutional outcome of a historic wave of labor unrest and economic nationalism in Latin America that launched developmentalist regimes oriented to economic growth through banana production, despite the dispossession and proletarianization that these policies engender. Labor repression therefore occurs as these regimes prioritize the profitability of banana producers in an increasingly competitive global banana market over the demands of banana workers and the dispossessed.