Schnellboot In Action by T. Garth Connelly

By T. Garth Connelly

"""Schnellboot In motion

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Such brokers, while financially better off than others within their group, continue to live and socialize among the people at the margins, a precondition for their business. Similarly, there is a potential role for brokers in the actual process of migrating. In an interesting study of migration from Java, Ernst Spaan (1994) has focused on the role of middlemen. In what is increasingly a commercialized business, semi-professional recruiters play an important role. Spaan finds that potential migrants often prefer the illegal option offered by village brokers they know from before, rather than official institutions.

In the Mexican study by Massey and associates, brokers are crucial for establishing the link between a given origin and destination: most migrant networks can be traced back to the fortuitous employment of some key individual. All that is necessary for a migrant network to develop is for one person to be in the right place at the right time, and obtain a position that allows him to distribute jobs and favors to others from his community. (Massey et al. 1987: 169) Despite what they say here, however, in a summary of four case studies of the emergence of Mexican ‘daughter communities’ in the USA, Massey and España (1987) pay little attention to brokerage.

The distinction between proactive and reactive collective action is outlined by Charles Tilly in the context of political mobilization. As Tilly points out, ‘the poor and powerless tend to begin defensively, the Social Networks in Wartime Migration 19 rich and powerful offensively’ (Tilly 1978: 75). Tilly also emphasizes that while proactive mobilization tends to be top-down, reactive mobilization tends to be bottom-up. The proactive–reactive distinction reveals the often neglected fact that people who might not have left had the decision been theirs alone still do so when subjected to pressure from within their collective.

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