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Transnational Infrastructures of Business and Labor. The Politics of Competitiveness in Central America

Recently, competitiveness has become a key element in development politics. “Good Governance”, mechanisms to ensure markets’ openness to products and investment, flexible labor regulations and local entrepreneurship are promoted by institutions like the IMF and the UN, but also by private corporations, specifically targeting their present and future competitors; low and medium income countries. In the context of Central America, a region marked by stark inequalities and a history of foreign interventions, this study situates hereto largely economic and juridical assessments of competitiveness in relation to its political conditions and effects as well as to labor market differences. Empirically, it examines the infrastructures of political influence available to capital and labor respectively. With a comparative ambition, it explores new geopolitical formations in economic integration through analyzing strategies of two organizations, one US- and one Taiwan-based, that promote private sector-led development in Central America. Further, labor organizations’ responses to the “flexibilization” of working conditions are analyzed. Focusing on labor–capital and state–market relations, “macro” and “micro” effects of economic reforms are examined, empirically and theoretically, as embedded in transnational divisions of labor. Thus, the study sheds light on interlocking private–public mechanisms of global and local governance as well as struggles for adequate working conditions.

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