[iDC] the craftsman / factory girls

Ken Wark warkk at newschool.edu
Tue Jul 7 19:33:05 UTC 2009

I would like to juxtapose The Craftsman to a few pars below which
summarize a book by Leslie T. Chang, Factory Girls, Speigel and Grau,
New York, 2008

“Her first day on the job, Min turned seventeen. She took a half day off
and walked the streets alone, buying some sweets and eating them by
herself. She had no idea what people did for fun.”  Like a hundred
million others, Min came down from the country to find work in one of
China’s new industrial cities. She came to Dongguan, a city of some ten
million people in the Pearl River Delta. She thought it would be fun to
work on an assembly line, with people talking and joking, but it was not
that way at all. Factory work is noisy, tiring and boring. Factory dorms
are full of petty crime, gangs, cliques and doomed romances. All that
keeps anyone in touch with anyone is the mobile phone. Time is governed
by shifts on machines and the global shopping calendar. When the nights
are warm and the days are long, Americans think it time to buy sneakers.

Like so many others in the boom years, Min changes jobs often, but keeps
finding much the same thing. Its no so different to the 60s in Europe,
only on a vastly greater scale. Young people weaned away from the
provinces, from the farm, becoming proletarian, and discover that
factory life dulls not just the muscles, but the mind. But the break has
been made, cast out of the old life, they make up the new as they go
along. The only difference is that unlike so many of the young people of
the 60s, Min has never heard of Chairman Mao. The local museum manages
not to mention him. When the boom bust, the Chinese government committed
billions to propping up New Moloch with vast projects, aimed at building
more of the same. Who would have thought, back in the middle of the
twentieth century, that in the early twenty-first century, the fate of
global capital might hinge, at least in part, on the prudent stewardship
of the Chinese Communist Party? 

McKenzie Wark
Associate Dean, Eugene Lang College

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