The_Biopolitical_Economy_of_Guest_Worker.pdf - Chapter 5 The Biopolitical Economy of \u2018Guest\u2019 Worker Programmes Greg Bird[I]t makes no sense to pay

The_Biopolitical_Economy_of_Guest_Worker.pdf - Chapter 5...

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99 [I]t makes no sense to pay whities to stay home while we bring in brown people to work in these jobs. —Mazer and Baker (2015) In the literature on biopolitics a debate has emerged regarding the precise nature of the biopolitical division of life. How is the relationship between worthy, politically included and legally recognised life ( bíos or proper life) and unworthy, politically excluded and legally unrecognised bare life ( zo ē or improper life) formulated? How is this division of life materially artic- ulated and sustained? What can be done to disrupt it and, if possible, liberate life from this biopolitical articulation? Theorists such as Giorgio Agamben, Roberto Esposito, Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri and Maurizio Lazzarato have argued that the asymmetrical relationship between proper and improper life is far more complicated than the simple normative distinction between privileged and degraded forms of life. The elevation of one group is not simply based on the deprecation of another—as we find in simplistic politics of recognition reduced to normative criteria—but is more deeply rooted in relationships of domination and control that are materially embedded in political and economic structures. In this latest stage of capitalism, life is appropriated, divided up, and asymmetrically dis- tributed in what must be called the global biopolitical economy of life. Proper life is not only distinguished from improper life, the normative rationale for its domination over improper life, because its dominion is nourished and preserved by apparatuses that enable it to exploit and appropriate the life of improper lives. 1 Put in different terms, the political dimension of domination is thoroughly entangled with the economic dimension of exploitation in what can only be called a biopolitical economy that now operates on a global scale. Chapter 5 The Biopolitical Economy of ‘Guest’ Worker Programmes Greg Bird
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Greg Bird 100 In this chapter, I use Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (herein TFWP) as a case study to exemplify how life is expropriated and asymmetri- cally distributed in the global biopolitical economy. Canada’s TFWP is a bio- political apparatus that preserves, protects and ultimately enhances the lives of Canadian citizens by devaluing, disposing and appropriating the lives of migrant workers. 2 I begin with a brief demographic sketch of this programme. Although most low-skilled migrant workers are employed in occupations that are vital to the maintenance and reproduction of the life of the nation (food services, agriculture, care work, etc.), this apparatus devitalises them. It has been designed to exploit and reproduce the global division of life between those who are reduced to mere ‘biological labourers’ and those elevated to the status of ‘vital citizens’. Devitalised, the improper lives of the labourers are used up and exploited in order to enhance the vitality of the lives of citizens.
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