ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The State of Workers in a ‘Workers’ State’

The Real i in the Apple Universe

Dying for an iPhone: Apple, Foxconn and the Lives of China’s Workers by Jenny Chan, Mark Selden and Pun Ngai, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2020; pp xvi + 277, $19.95.

The violence in the Wistron factory—Taiwanese supplier producing Apple products—in Karnataka in December 2020 due to serious lapses in labour practices generated considerable debate on the realities of hi-tech manufacturing, which are built on outsourced, precarious labour. This incident also provided a window into the modes of operation of global electronics and hi-tech brands that bolster their corporate profile and reap profits through transnational production processes and practices involving chains of suppliers and subcontra­ctors while also squeezing the lives of wor­kers who produce sleek, high-definition gadgets and devices in sweat-shop conditions. The debates over labour contention and resulting violence in the Wistron facility had somehow missed the connections and parallels in the work practices and operations of Taiwanese subcontractors in Mainland China (Krishnan 2020). It is in this context that Dying for an iPhone: Apple, Foxconn and the Lives of China’s Workers provides a rich, in-depth study of the lived experiences of the workers of Foxconn, the major supplier for Apple, thereby also helping to comprehensively understand the intertwined relationship of the global brand and its suppliers.

The title of the book itself, while being provocative, also juxtaposes two kinds of deathson one side, the figurative one, where consumers around the world who are keyed into the new products of Apple, queue up to buy them; and on the other, a new generation of workers forced to bear the costs of producing these products, keeping up with corporate requirements of speed and precision. Thus, both the “deaths” are well connected to each other.

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Updated On : 7th Jun, 2021

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