Matan Kaminer received his Ph.D. in Anthropology in 2019.
Marx conceived of the reproduction of labor-power as a circuit in which the wage must suffice to purchase the commodities necessary to meet the worker’s “so-called necessary requirements,” which are “products of history.” In this article, I argue that, through ethnographic investigation of the wage as a sign of these requirements, we can arrive at a wealth of knowledge about how the wage helps to construct different groups of workers as belonging to different human types, which are often “bundled” together with categories such as race and citizenship. I make my case through the investigation of two groups of workers: young Jewish-Israeli citizens engaged in logistics work and earning the minimum wage, and migrant farmworkers from Thailand who are paid far below that minimum for their labor. I argue that the first group represents a “zero degree” of labor-power, defined by the legal and biopolitical concern of the state for its reproduction, while the latter is understood by its members, their employers, and the surrounding society as undeserving of such concern. Deploying the Marxist-feminist problematic of the social reproduction of labor power, I argue that, by affording different groups of workers, and their children, different standards of living and opportunities for integration into labor markets, the wage works together with other forces to lock people into embodied, inherited “types.” From this perspective, I suggest, some categories of oppression do not “intersect” at right angles but rather run almost parallel, and at times coming close to cohering—a finding with implications for both analysis and political practice.