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The Meaning of “Free” Work: Service as a Gift, and Labor as a Commodity for Ni-Vanuatu Labor Migrants

Authors
  • Smith, Rachel
Publication Date
Sep 08, 2021
Source
Apollo - University of Cambridge Repository
Keywords
License
Unknown
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Abstract

Rather than accept formal commodity-like contractual definitions of ‘free’ labor, this chapter reflects on the ambivalence in Mauss’s concept of “prestations totales” (‘total services’) to reconsider the ‘voluntary character’ of work. It discusses Vanuatu’s colonial and unfree labor history, as well as the impact of overseas labor migration on attitudes to work in contemporary Vanuatu. It shows how the meaning and value of ‘free work’, both in terms of working without payment, or working autonomously, depends on the worker’s standpoint within their social and political relations, and how they confront their social obligations.

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