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Environment, Labour and Capitalism at SeaWorking the Ground' in Scotland$
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Penny McCall Howard

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781784994143

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784994143.001.0001

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‘You just can’t get a price’ The difference political economy makes

‘You just can’t get a price’ The difference political economy makes

(p.153) 5 ‘You just can’t get a price’ The difference political economy makes
Environment, Labour and Capitalism at Sea

Penny McCall Howard

Manchester University Press

Chapter Five focuses on the structuring effect of political economy on commercial fishers in Scotland (and elsewhere). It outlines how sea creatures like crabs and lobsters were made into tradeable commodities, and how commodity relations affected ownership of boats and gear, and the distribution of fishing surplus among owners and crew. Commodity relations extended to the commodification of people’s own labour, and permeated and structured social relations between fishermen, generating new forms of class relations. Following Henry Bernstein’s key questions of political economy, the chapter investigates ‘who owns what’ and ‘who gets what’ and how these relations have changed historically. Over time, ownership of boats has been centralised and the fishing share system has been modified so that owners appropriated a greater portion of the fishing surplus. The position of crew has moved in the opposite direction, as they have shifted from being part owners of boats and gear, to a pool of casual waged labourers, to migrant workers (mainly Filipino) on very low wages. In ecological terms, commodity relations encouraged a strategy of catching tiny prawns in bulk, a fishing strategy which is facilitated the employment of low-waged fishers.

Keywords:   Boat ownership, Fishing share system, Skipper and crew, Migrant workers, Filipino workers, Commodity relations, Scotland, Political economy, Class, Fishing, Nephrops, Ecology

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