Gwo-Shyong Shieh (1986)

Research Fellow, Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan

My academic career began with an attempt to decipher 'the Taiwan economic miracle.' The subcontracting network provided a key: its variegated and tiny units of production, its flexible mobilization and combination of these units, its downward-squeezing mechanism, its deployment of homeworkers, and its opportunity for 'becoming one's own boss.' This was the hidden abode of Taiwanese capitalism at its export-oriented phase.

A further deciphering of the category of 'wage' disclosed that the 'labor-only consciousness' dominated their everyday life in the shop floor. Only when the employment relationship threatened to break asunder did they realize that their labor power meant more than their piece wage only, thanks to the specifications of labor law.

I just finished an ethnography of a tea-producing village in the northern Taiwan to uncover the cultural base of the 'labor-only consciousness.' The native categories of understanding that concern the villagers' conceptions of 'personhood,' 'positionality,' 'cause,' and so on articulate with the category of 'wage,' and hence present a complicated and unanticipated local landscape of capitalism.

My future study will be a phenomenological investigation of commodity fetishism as it is encountered in the community of Taiwanese workers. While recognizing Power is Knowledge, which collective social action can directly challenges and perhaps changes, I nevertheless believe that Knowledge is Power, especially the profound knowledge that can bring to light the disguising mechanisms that make power as knowledge. That kind of profound knowledge comes from rigorous and original academic research at its base, to which I have dedicated myself.

Dissertation Title
Manufacturing `Bosses': Subcontracting Networks under Dependent Capitalism in Taiwan
Dissertation Book Title
Boss Island : the subcontracting network and micro-entrepreneurship in Taiwan's development