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Tales of Hope, Tastes of BitternessChinese Road Builders in Ethiopia$
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Miriam Driessen

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9789888528042

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888528042.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM HONG KONG SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.hongkong.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Hong Kong University Press, 2022. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in HKSO for personal use.date: 17 May 2022

Inspiring Indiscipline

Inspiring Indiscipline

(p.104) 5 Inspiring Indiscipline
Tales of Hope, Tastes of Bitterness

Miriam Driessen

Hong Kong University Press

On the construction site the enforcement of labor discipline is mostly based on personal whim. Rules are made up on the spot and punishments depend on the mood or the goodwill of individual Chinese foremen. This type of labor regime leads to a loss of managerial credibility and inspires indiscipline on the part of Ethiopian workers. Subversion can be subtle, expressed with humor and through play, but transgressions can also evolve into open defiance, such as work stoppages and labor strikes. Voting with their feet is yet another strategy that Ethiopian laborers employ to play one Chinese enterprise off against the other, forcing management to increase wages and improve employment conditions in the process. Taken together, these subversive acts challenge Chinese managers, so much so that they are disciplined by their own workers.

Keywords:   Labor, discipline, management, resistance, transgression, strike

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