The Meaning of “Free” Work: Service as a Gift, and Labor as a Commodity for Ni-Vanuatu Labor Migrants

Rachel Smith* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Rather than accept formal commodity-like contractual definitions of ‘free’ labor, this chapter reflects on the ambivalence in Mauss’s concept of “prestations totales” (‘total services’) to reconsider the ‘voluntary character’ of work. It discusses Vanuatu’s colonial and unfree labor history, as well as the impact of overseas labor migration on attitudes to work in contemporary Vanuatu. It shows how the meaning and value of ‘free work’, both in terms of working without payment, or working autonomously, depends on the worker’s standpoint within their social and political relations, and how they confront their social obligations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWORK, SOCIETY AND THE ETHICAL SELF
Subtitle of host publicationChimeras of Freedom in the Neoliberal Era
EditorsChips Hann
PublisherBerghahn Books
Pages27-48
ISBN (Print)978-1-80073-225-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2021

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