Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Review of Sociologist Robyn Magalit Rodriguez's NEW BOOK Migrants For Export

Jeb Sprague
Science & Society

Migrants for Export: How the Philippine State Brokers Labor to the World, by Robyn Magalit Rodriguez. Minneapolis, Minnesota/London: University of Minnesota Press, 2010. $67.00; paper, $19.00. Pp. 208.
From government-sponsored nursing classes in Manila to crushed labor strikes at garment factories in southeast Asia, a variety of mechanisms have been developed to manage, promote and coerce Filipino workers as a readily available cheap source of labor around the world. A book of interest for scholars or students of global migration or of the contemporary Filipino/ Filipina experience, Migrants for Export should also be of interest to those studying the state in globalization and in relation to the changing practices and ideologies of state elites.
Rodriguez starts by considering some theoretical issues behind the state and its interaction with migrants, and the historical roots of the novel processes of today’s global market and political economy. She explains how the modern Philippine state developed, first tightly bound to the United States as a colony and later as a component within a global system (yet, still closely aligned with the United States). It is in today’s era of global capitalism that Rodriguez seeks to understand, by way of the Philippines, the exploitive and contradictory nature of the state’s role in migration.

The book’s central argument is that the Philippine state has become actively involved in marketing its citizens to companies and labor-receiving governments around the world for low-wage and closely watched temporary jobs. The practices and ideologies of state elites have become rooted in this process — becoming active migration promoters and managers, such that the “orientation of Philippine officials and government agencies toward overseas employment reveals the extent to which Philippine citizens have become reduced to mere commodities to be bartered and traded globally”(27).