‘Știu eu pe cineva’ Self-Organized Mobility, Labor Intermediation and the Twofold Exploitability of Romanian Workers in the Austrian Fresh Food Sector


Paul Sperneac-Wolfer


The workings of expansive Romanian migration networks across Western Europe as forms of self-organized migration are well-documented. Yet, transnational relations have rarely been examined outside of Romanian migrant networks, namely in their potential source of value extraction in broader accumulation processes. This article thus attempts to look at the self-organization of mobility of Romanian workers - in particular, the practice of labor intermediation - in relation to its exploitation in highly segmented labor markets. In the following, I ethnographically substantiate the view that in my examined field site, the Austrian fresh food sector, it is precisely the self-organization of mobility among Romanian workers that became exploitable by Austrian growers in highly efficient ways. Based on findings from a year-long and ongoing ethnography in an Austrian greenhouse complex, I show how growers capitalize particularly on the practice of labor intermediation to maintain the resilience and profitability of local agricultural businesses in the restructured Austrian agricultural market. The resulting workplace regime constitutes workers in a twofold exploitability: not only is their labor power, but also their interpersonal relations subject to value extraction. This analysis implies the need to move beyond commonplace vocabularies of “social capital” to grasp the persistent exploitation of migrant workers and their reproductive capacities across segmented labor markets in Europe.


Author Biography

Paul Sperneac-Wolfer, Central European University

Department of Sociology & Social Anthropology
Address: Quellenstraße 51, A-1100, Wien, Austria.
Email: sperneac-wolfer_paul@student.ceu.edu

How to Cite
Sperneac-Wolfer, P. (2023). ‘Știu eu pe cineva’ Self-Organized Mobility, Labor Intermediation and the Twofold Exploitability of Romanian Workers in the Austrian Fresh Food Sector. Sociologie Românească, 21(1), 75-92. https://doi.org/10.33788/sr.21.1.4


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