Gunpoint Capitalism

Enforcing Industrial Order in Karachi

Part of the Comparative Politics and International Studies Series Christophe Jaffrelot (ed.) series
December 2024 9781911723783 384pp
Forthcoming Pre-order
Available as an eBook
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On 11 September 2012, over 250 workers of Ali Enterprises, which produced jeans for the German discount retailer KiK, perished in a fire in their Karachi factory. Was this an accident or an arson attack? Straight away, the tragedy gave rise to contradictory interpretations. While some blamed the exploitative logics of fast fashion, others suspected foul play by the political parties preying on the city and its business class.

Taking as a starting point the controversy caused by this disaster, Gunpoint Capitalism plunges us into the murky waters of globalisation. Exploring the back alleys of Pakistan’s industrial capital city, it shows how the manufacturing economy makes order out of disorder, and profit out of conflict–to the detriment of workers. In Karachi, as elsewhere, petty criminals and ex-servicemen prove to be formidable enforcers of economic order. A comparison with Europe, the United States and Latin America confirms the central place of such henchmen in the dynamics of capitalism. These shock troops of anti-unionism are now participating in the dismantling of the social state.

This probing, sometimes shocking, book sheds new light on the power structures, organised violence and daily labour struggles underpinning the production of our consumer goods.


Laurent Gayer is CNRS Senior Research Professor at CERI-Sciences Po. He is the author of Karachi and Gunpoint Capitalism and co-editor of Muslims in Indian Cities and Armed Militias of South Asia (all published by Hurst); and co-author of Proud to Punish: The Global Landscapes of Rough Justice (forthcoming).

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