Why Do Temp Workers Work as Hard as They Do?: The Commitment and Suffering of Factory Temp Workers in Japan

TitleWhy Do Temp Workers Work as Hard as They Do?: The Commitment and Suffering of Factory Temp Workers in Japan
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsKojima, Shinji
JournalThe Sociological Quarterly
Volume56
Issue2
Pagination355 - 385
Date Published2015///
Keywordsfactory workers, Japan, Marxism, precarious work, temp workers, temporary work
Abstract

This qualitative study on blue-collar temporary agency workers in Japan uses participant observation and in-depth interviews to revisit the Marxist problem of surplus appropriation; that is, why do temp workers work as hard as they do, when management has little to offer in return? Existing literature has provided two answers of “coercion” and “consent.” This study attempts to bridge the debate by employing Bourdieu and Wacquant's concepts of practical sense and illusio. Workers entering the factory as novices initially made conscious efforts to master the specific bodily schemes necessary to survive on an insecure job. It was in the process of mastering the practical knowledge of factory work that temp workers came to be taken in, and by the game. Temp workers came to experience joy in investing their mind and body in the tasks, for they saw themselves reflected in the good job they did. Yet workers were not wholehearted believers in the game; they questioned their commitment and deeply suffered from reflecting on the poor treatment they continued to receive despite their commitment.