The Truth of the Apple iPad Behind Foxconn’s Lies

I find it difficult to know what to do with the fact that I first watched this video on an iPad mini and am now writing this post on a MacBook Air. The company also apparently makes the Kindle, Wii and Play Station 3. When I was younger and had more radical politics (sociology killed my anarchism) I was critical of consumer boycotts on the grounds that they were anti-corporate rather than anti-capitalist, drawing a boundary between ‘bad’ MNCs and good everything else in such a way as to preclude critique of the economic relations underlying either side of the dichotomy and impede collective action to transform that nexus. Whereas now it seems obvious to me that corporations like Apple in particular are susceptible to public pressure, albeit in a profoundly shallow and uneven way. On the other other hand, I really do like my iPad mini and MacBook Air (and iMac and iPhone, sigh…) a lot – so I’ll respond to the moral inertia provoked by this video in the time honoured fashion of academics everywhere: I’ll negotiate my own unease by intellectualising it, displacing the moment of action by instead pointing to how fascinatingly, though disturbingly, neo-feudal the world of Foxconn appears to be:

Foxconn’s largest factory worldwide is in LonghuaShenzhen, where hundreds of thousands of workers (varying counts include 230,000,[18] 300,000,[20] and 450,000[21]) are employed at the Longhua Science & Technology Park, a walled campus[6] sometimes referred to as “Foxconn City”[22] or “iPod City”.[23] Covering about 1.16 square miles (3 square km),[24] it includes 15 factories,[22] worker dormitories, a swimming pool,[25] a fire brigade,[6] its own television network (Foxconn TV),[6] and a city centre with a grocery store, bank, restaurants, bookstore, and hospital.[6] While some workers live in surrounding towns and villages, others live and work inside the complex;[26] a quarter of the employees live in the dormitories, and many of them work up to 12 hours a day for 6 days each week.[18] Another of Foxconn’s factory “cities” is Zhengzhou Technology Park in ZhengzhouHenan province, where it is reported 120,000 employees work.[27]

 


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