The documentary film American Factory is introducting to the mainstream progressive audience the problems that the global mobility of capital impose on the local population and environment.
At the first (and to some digree cinycal) seeing, the film could be understood as a homage to the American working culture and workers’ rights, suppressed by the Chinese de-humanized workplace practices.
However, this would be a reduction of a much more important narrative underlying the film; the thesis of the documentary is far more general and has to do with the problems of absentee ownership and corporate governance.
The critics’ consensus on Rotten Tomatoes says that “American Factory takes a thoughtful — and troubling — look at the dynamic between workers and employers in the 21st-century globalized economy.” There is nothing to the American capital that is in nature different to the Chinese capital and its exploitative practices. Nevertheless, it was the American GM that shut down thousands of jobs and moved capital to more (financially) productive uses instead of restructuring the factory to save the well-being of the local community. Similarly, it is the American and European capital that has been, for decades if not more, exploiting the low working standards in the third world, enslaving children under the pretense of “free choice and improved standards of living”, and lobbying for labor market deregulation at home, precarizing the lower and middle class.
When we forget about the apparent conflict between the American and the Chinese working culture, we begin to watch a documentary that illustrates how concentrated corporate interest disregards the interest of workers and the environment, and uses them purely as the means to its own, fairly undemocratic, ends.
When thinking about the corporations and companies of the future, we should make sure that the interest of owners and managers are aligned with the interests of the employees, local community, and the environment. How to achieve this? Well, you know our answer…