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The Labor of Luck

Casino Capitalism in the United States and South Africa

Jeff Sallaz (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 344 pages
ISBN: 9780520259492
October 2009
$29.95, £24.00
Other Formats Available:
In this gripping ethnography, Jeffrey J. Sallaz goes behind the scenes of the global casino industry to investigate the radically different worlds of work and leisure he found in identically designed casinos in the United States and South Africa. Seamlessly weaving political and economic history with his own personal experience, Sallaz provides a riveting account of two years spent working among both countries' casino dealers, pit bosses, and politicians. While the popular imagination sees the Nevada casino as a hedonistic world of consumption, The Labor of Luck shows that the “Vegas experience” is made possible only through a variety of systems regulating labor, capital, and consumers, and that because of these complex dynamics, the Vegas casino cannot be seamlessly picked up and replicated elsewhere. Sallaz's fresh and path-breaking approach reveals how neo-liberal versus post-colonial forms of governance produce divergent worlds at the tables, and how politics, profits, and pleasure have come together to shape everyday life in the new economy.
List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Introduction: Dealing with Globalization

Part I Behind the Tables
1. Nevada: Learning to Deal
2. Silver State Casino: Entrepreneurs at Work
3. South Africa: Gambling with Empowerment
4. Gold City Casino: Effacing Labor

Part II Beyond the Scenes
5. The Politics of Producing Service
6. Cut from the Same Cloth: Convergent Historical Origins
7. The Birth of Regulation: States, Stigmata, and Symbolic Capital
8. Of Dice and Men: Divergent Modes of Management

Conclusion: Casino Capitalism and Politico-Performativity
Methodological Appendix: Comparative Ethnography and Reflexive Science
Jeffrey J. Sallaz is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona.
“An important contribution to the sociology of work.”—Daniyal Zuberi American Journal Of Sociology
“In the last two decades land-based casino gambling has been established as an economic development option for societies across Europe, North America, Africa, Asia and Australasia. Jeffrey Sallaz’s book is the first major sociological study to assess how the transition, from pariah industry to this new legitimate status, was orchestrated. . . . An extremely useful comparative model that brings gambling out of the confines of literatures on deviance and pathology into the mainstream of sociology.”—Terry Austrin, University of Canterbury, New Zealand Intl Journal Of Comparative Soci
"A rich and compelling comparative study of a rapidly growing and little-studied global industry. Sallaz offers an extremely clever and provocative account that is sure to stimulate a lot of debate among scholars."—Ruth Milkman, University of California, Los Angeles and author of L.A. Story: Immigrant Workers and the Future of the U.S. Labor Movement

"A tremendous tour de force. It is astonishing in its scope, ranging effortlessly from the minutiae of shop floor life to the heights of comparative national political and economic history, from breezily personal (and often amusing) to a brilliant reconstruction of social theory."—Steven Henry Lopez, Ohio State University and author of Reorganizing the Rust Belt: An Inside Study of the American Labor Movement

Scholarly Monograph Award, American Sociological Association Section on Labor and Labor Movements

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