Carole Morrison explains modern chicken farming practices
Tags: capitalism, food/agriculture, marx/marxism, organizations/occupations/work, theory, weber, alienation, assembly line, fordism, labor process, mass production, rationalization, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This clip is from Food Inc., a documentary illustrating how giant food corporations have taken control over the entire food production system "from seed to supermarket." The video shows how this rationalized system leads to the alienation and impoverishment of its workers, such as Carole Morrison (a Perdue chicken farmer). It illustrates all four dimensions of Marx's concept of alienation. First, Morrison is alienated from the production process because Perdue dictates how the chickens must be raised. Perdue requires that chicken farmers enter contracts with them, which require the farmers to upgrade their farms to dark, windowless facilities in order to raise the chickens faster and make them less resistant. Working for Perdue, Morrison is also alienated from her species-being because her creativity is being stifled, meaning she cannot raise the chicken in a natural environment. She may prefer allowing the chickens to see light or she may have a different method of ventilating the room than Perdue mandates. Perdue's practices also alienate Morrison from her product. When she's done raising the chickens, Perdue comes and takes them all away. Mrs. Morrison's labor only serves to benefit Perdue and she does not get to keep or benefit from the products she raises (i.e. produces). Finally, Morrison is alienated from her fellow workers. Even though there are many different farmers contracted by Perdue, they have no connection to each other and only care about following Perdue's commands. Morrison says that farmers are afraid to speak against Perdue because they might lose their contracts. If one farmer were to lose her contract with Perdue, it would be safe to say that the other farmers would either be indifferent or might not even know. This clip also illustrates Weber's notion of rationalization in that Perdue seeks to make the production of chickens increasingly efficient, calculable, predictable, and controllable (e.g. they make chicken coups dark because it makes the chickens more docile and easier to catch). However, there are many "irrationalities of rationality," including diseases, mistreatment of animals, and abuses against workers. Finally, the video notes that many workers that come to take the chickens are undocumented workers,and Perdue knows that they "aren't going to complain" about being subjected to diseases or unfair treatment. The worker's undocumented status makes them easier to control. Note that because of Morrison's participation in the documentary, her contract with Perdue was terminated.
Submitted By: Reza Rahvarian and Alex Hong
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