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In the Eye of the Beholder: The Social Construction of Injustice Along the Mexico-U.S. Border

Mark Horowitz


This essay examines the implications of the growing cross-border justice movement along the Mexico-U.S. border. As corporate reorganization in North America threatens "downward harmonization" in wages and working conditions, cross-border activists are responding by attempting to construct "upward harmonization" in wage and workplace expectations among maquiladora workers. Activists do so by utilizing an array of innovative framing practices in their daily activities and organizational literature. The author analyzes such practices by drawing on several years of experience in cross-border advocacy and ten months of field work in a
poor colonia in Reynosa, Mexico. The data show that maquiladora activists inside the movement are much more critical of their wages and working conditions than workers with no exposure to the movement. It is argued, however, that the contrast in views does not mean that activists are merely ideological "dupes" of northern organizations. On the contrary, from a social constructionist perspective, it is maintained that conceptions of economic "justice" or "exploitation," satisfaction or dissatisfaction with wages, are necessarily fluid phenomena bound up with global economic and cultural integration.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229