Dear Sistas and Bros at the Global Warehouse

Am I advertising again, when I confess that I am typing this text in IKEA’s store in Minneapolis? Perhaps, but my point is to tell you that I am in one of the Twin city’s global sites, and here’s what they offer: grab a big yellow submarine-bag, a pencil and a small block, and ENJOY the shopping experience. And so we do, but before anything we need to grab some food. In the restaurant the workers look reeaaally bored. And it’s no wonder; at the same time as they are paid lousy wages, we are asked to clear our tables after the meal. Why? Because according to IKEA, self-service is one way to keep prices down; that’s why we – but not they – pay less.

Believe it or not, but real reasons for cheap prices are elsewhere. They are for example in the fact that the more we self-serve, the less they need to hire more low-paid workers to gather our trays and left over meatballs. And what it comes to IKEA’s cheap prices, it is not about collecting our trays, but exploiting child and women workers in the third world countries. We import our so-called welfare from the numerous sweatshops, buy our fun in the expense of children and women whose lives are wasted in the hell factories producing our unnecessary needs manufactured by media and marketing industry. And what did we buy? Pots and a frying pan, and a clock made in China plus six drinking glasses made in Turkey.

We are workers also in this warehouse, or factory, known as IKEA. Certainly we are much better off workers than our sisters and brothers in Laos, Thailand, China, and other shanty places (also inside Europe and the US), but workers after all. We are factory workers who work by consuming in the consumption factories like this. Although ‘they’ exercise exploited work and ‘we’ exercise consumption work, there is, however, a substantial and defined qualitative difference between theirs’ and ours’ being as workers. Using Pierre Bourdieu’s beautiful distinction, ‘we’ live under la petit misére as ‘they’ are forced to live under la grand misére.


At 12/9/05, Blogger Tere said...

I once heard a good solution to the "global warehouse"-problem: you shouldn't buy stuff at a cheaper price than for what you yourself would be willing to produce the stuff. (Maybe we can make this more Kantian: you should pay for a product the price that you wish to be universally applicable). Would take care most of the problems having to do with division of labour, don't you think?

Slightly off topic, but still: some interesting boots, here:


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