Workplace Suicide and States of Denial: The France Telecom and Foxconn Cases Compared

Sarah Waters

Abstract


Workplace suicides are sharply on the rise and reflect a generalised deterioration in working conditions across the globalised economy. Despite their growing prevalence, workplace suicides are subject to specific modes of repression that tend to keep them hidden from public view. Suicides and their social recognition threaten the vested interests of corporate and political elites by giving material embodiment to relations of production in the form of extreme human suffering. This article focuses on 'suicide waves' at two distant corporations in the information and communications sector: in France, the telecoms provider, France Télécom (rebranded Orange in 2013) and in China, electronics supplier, Foxconn. Drawing on Stanley Cohen's notion of 'states of denial', the article examines the tactics used by corporate and political elites in an effort to keep the suicides concealed. These include discourses that denied the suicides, individualised their causes and repressive tactics intended to control information and impede investigations. Recognising workplace suicides and the forms of repression that seek to occlude them, is crucial if we are to confront the profound human costs of a new international division of digital labour on lived experiences of work.

Keywords


Suicide, France Telecom, Foxconn, digital labour, workplace

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