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Title:The constitution of the colonial labor subject: Labor law in colonial India, 1881 to 1936
Author(s):DeSousa, Valerian
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Wiley, N.
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, Asia, Australia and Oceania
Sociology, Industrial and Labor Relations
Abstract:The Colonial project in India, which was based on the appropriation of an economic surplus, was given legitimacy with a discourse that spoke of the social, moral, and political redemption of the 'natives'. This discourse was grounded in an Orientalism--i.e., the Oriental as the subject and object of study--that constructed the Indian as the Other in opposition to the British. This oppositional discourse was extended to factory workers whose pre-capitalist work habits and attitudes were read as the 'traditionalism' of Indian 'agriculturalists'. In the early decades of factory production this construction justified the existing despotic production regime. However, by the turn of the century, and especially after the First World War when industrial production assumed an increasing importance in the colonial agenda, the colonial government sought to reconstitute factory workers as 'efficient' labor subjects. Moreover, with labors evolving consciousness which incorporated a distinct anti-colonial position, the colonial government sought to contain this threat. Law, which was the primary signifier of British dominance, thus became an instrument of reform and control.
The 'welfare' laws reformed workers by altering their work habits. The Factories Acts rationalized the working day and introduced measures to improve the health and body of workers. The Workmen's Compensation Act of 1923 insisted that workers obey the demands of the machine while simultaneously increasing their commitment to factory life by reducing the cost of work related accidents. The Payment of Wages Act of 1936 replaced the system of excessive discipline with an optimizing regime. The 'rights' laws limited the political potential of the labor movement. Thus, the Trade Union's Act of 1926 granted unions a legal personality but on condition they accept an attenuated political role. The Trade Disputes Act of 1929 prohibited strikes while channelizing protests into safe outlets such as compulsory conciliation and arbitration.
Issue Date:1993
Rights Information:Copyright 1993 DeSousa, Valerian
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9314860
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9314860

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