Networks of Exploitation: an Analysis

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This critique will analyze the article ‘Networks of Exploitation: Immigrant Labour and the Restructuring of the Los Angeles Janitorial Industry’ by Cynthia J. Cranford. It attempts to assess her work and evaluate its merits. In this critique, I argue that while the case of the janitorial industry in Los Angeles may sufficiently support Cranford’s thesis, it fails to describe the situation that legal immigrant workers have to face. It theorizes that the level of exploitation would be significantly lower if employers did not have workers’ illegal immigrant statuses as a tool to use against them.

Cynthia J. Cranford argues, in her article, that immigrant social networks have become exploitative and that the popular trend of regarding immigrant social networks as a form of social capital and focusing on the benefits of these social ties may, in fact, be misconstruing the nature of the situation [ (Cranford 2005) ]. Cranford argues that these networks may become exploitative in nature and she poses an important question regarding who these social networks are eventually benefiting. Cranford notes that many scholars view the idea of social networks as an avenue for immigrants to obtain jobs, and subsequently gain upward mobility [ (Cranford 2005) ]. She cites several examples of scholarly articles theorizing that these social networks are beneficial to both the employer, and the employee. She also claims that these studies de-emphasize ‘power differentials’. To support her thesis, Cranford used primary research in the janitorial industry in Los Angeles. The research consisted of 30 months of fieldwork in Los Angeles where Cranford draws on the information gathered from Latina and Latino immigrants that entered the industry at a time and place characterized by restructuring. To obtain this information, Cranford chose to use the purposive sampling technique [ (Cranford 2005) ]. Cranford stressed on the importance of building a certain amount of trust with...
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