Car Wars: Global Automakers, Entrepreneurial Governance, and the Elision of Labor Open Access

Cowart, Oliver Ambrose Braselman (2017)

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Since the global crisis of the 1970s-80s and the onset of the neoliberal globalization project a major shift has taken place in the U.S. automotive production that has followed the restrictive labor climate of the Southeastern U.S. As foreign producers entered the country, states and local governments became entrepreneurial in attempting to lure in automotive plants. This research is concerned with two central questions: 1) is this competition among states for industrial investment new, or just the same kind of state support for capital we have seen in the past? and 2) Are there deeper changes occurring in the relations between capital, the state, and labor? I conducted a comparative case study of 21 automotive assembly plants that located in or near the Southeastern United States since 1980, focusing on the complexities of the process of recruitment and the power relations within it. I conducted extensive secondary research and interviewed 18 experts on both the private and public side of development.

My findings show that there were important changes in industrial recruitment efforts that began in the mid 1980s, as the people involved become more professionalized in recruitment efforts, the process of recruitment became more rationalized, and the government incentives packages grew to encompass fixed-capital and other up-front costs. Furthermore, the rationalization of the recruitment and site selection process created a field of expert knowledge shared among professionalizing government development officials and firms specializing in industrial site selection. This overlapping field of knowledge is firmly situated in the perspective of businesses, obscuring the public-private distinction in a one-sided way. I argue the development of this professional field has affected the practice of governance itself, as these localities come to adopt a "partnership" approach to entrepreneurial governance in which they behave as a business. As localities interpellate the imperatives of global neoliberalism, local governments are partly reshaping themselves according to ideology of market orthodoxy. This has the ultimate effect of both reorienting the locality towards facilitating global capital accumulation, while also eroding the political legitimacy of labor as a political actor vis-à-vis capital and the state.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction 1

The Question 5

The Complexity 7

Research Overview 11

Outline of this Study 12

Chapter 2: Theorizing Local Development Strategies 17

Location in the Literature 18

Approaches to Studying Development Strategies 20

Theories of Capitalist Accumulation and Change 23

Theorizing Context 25

The Globalization Project 30

Entrepreneurial Governance 36

Research Design 38

Case Selection 41

Research Methods: Secondary 42

Research Methods: Primary 43

Chapter 3: Context and Cases 47

United States Industrial Policy (such as it is) 47

The South 52

The Cases 57

Chapter 4: Patterns in the Industry - Patterns in Location 66

Understanding Automotive Assembly Plant Locations 66

The Rise of Japanese Competition 68

Locational Theories 71

U.S. Transplant Locational Decisions Part I 74

U.S. Transplant Locational Decisions Part II 89

Into the 2000s 94

Cases Omitted 99

A Few Generalizations 103

Chapter 5:
The Industrial Recruitment of Automotive Assembly Plants in the South 106

Who Recruits? 107

Public Agencies and Authorities 107

Private and Other Actors Involved 111

Incentives Packages 114

The Process of Industrial Recruitment 124

Changes & Developments in Industrial Recruitment 134

A Race to the Bottom? 148

Coda 156

Conclusions 160

Chapter 6: The Business of Partnerships 163

Introduction: Partnerships 163

1. The Customer Service Experience (CSE) 167

2.1 Place as Product I 172

2.2 Place as Product II 176

2.3 Place as Product III 179

3. Government as Businessperson 182

Entrepreneurial Governance 186

Conclusions 196

Chapter 7: The Political and Economic in Partnership 199

The Class Project 201

Effects on Local Policy 211

The Elision of Labor 216

Public or Private? 221

Conclusions 230

Chapter 8: Something Like a Few Conclusions 233

Losing on Local Deals? 236

Where Does Partnership Go from Here? 240

Alternatives to Partnership 251

Cracks in the Foundation, Cracks in the Façade 257

Limitations and a last few words 261

Bibliography 265

Appendix 1: Sample of Interview Prompts 281

List of Tables and Figures

Table 3.1 All Automotive Assembly Plants In Eastern US in Neoliberal Era 58

Table 3.2 Greenfield Plant Locations and Incentives Detail 60

Figure 4.1 Map of Greenfield Plant Locations 81

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