Brown Looks at Labor in Jamaica, South Korea

By Purnell T. Cropper | February 23, 2010

Dr. Christopher M. Brown, Adjunct Professor of Political Science compares the labor movements and economic development in Jamaica and South Korea in a panel on “Theory vs. Policy? Connecting Scholars and Practitioners on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at the International Studies Association conference. He presented a paper on “’We Are Labor—Better Must Come!’: Labor Union Politicization, Democratization, and the Developing State.”

“How has the politicization of labor movements shaped the institutional dynamics of developing states?” asks Brown? His research investigates Korean and Jamaican development through a comparative case study method.

“In Jamaica, labor movements became highly politicized early on, forming the basis for political parties that ultimately came to power in the aftermath of independence. As a result, labor union politicization has maintained a privileged position in the institutional dynamics of the Jamaican political regime. In Korea, labor has been largely excluded from the domestic political environment until recent years, revealing a much different institutional setting.

“The issue of labor politics and their role in the institutional dynamics of the state may offer some tempting implications for the issue of democracy and economic growth,” says Brown. “In Korea, democracy has historically been sacrificed upon the altar of the developmental state model, yielding significant economic growth. In Jamaica, by contrast, a deep commitment to parliamentary democracy has been concurrent with slow growth and economic stagnation. The degree of political space afforded to labor union representation in developing states significantly influences democratic development by conditioning the terms by which the institutional dynamics of a state’s political economy is hardwired into the survivability of a political regime.”