1.5 Conclusion

Throughout this unit, a major concern has been to show how the demand of the antisweatshop movement that we not only respond to, but take responsibility for, economic injustices, no matter how distant, is an intensely controversial one. Claims by campaigning groups such as Oxfam and Christian Aid that consumer demand for cheap branded goods perpetuates poverty wage levels in the sweatshop industries are countered by claims from the pro-market lobby which point in an altogether differen
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1.4.1 Introduction

Up to now I have focused on the claims of the antisweatshop movement and the counter-claims of those who contest the purely negative conclusions drawn about the exploitation of another country's poor. To that end, I have, at various moments, touched on issues of demands to take responsibility: whether, for instance, responsibility for sweatshops should be divided up in some way between all those connected to the market system which gives rise to them, or placed firmly at the door of the big r
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1.3.8 Summary of section

  • During the 1970s and 1980s, countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan benefited from their low-cost advantages in the new global division of labour. Now, however, the gap between rich and poor nations is wider and competition in the world economy greater, prompting campaigning groups to argue that contemporary low-wage economies do not have the options for economic development that their predecessors had.

  • In the face of market fragment
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1.3.4 Bringing remote sweatshops within reach continued

Another claim made by the movement is that we are all in some way connected to a market system which effectively allows sweatshops to exist in the first place. This is about more than targeting the big brand names and linking them directly to exploitation abroad; rather, it is about piecing together the global market machinery that ties the corporate buyer, the boardroom executive, the factory owner and the consumer into a system which establishes particular lines of responsibility (Ha
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1.2.10 Summary

  • The shift of the world's manufacturing base from developed to developing economies in the 1970s heralded the beginning of a new global division of labour and the rise of global factories to produce for Western markets. The search for ever-cheaper labour sources undertaken by multinational firms established a new geography of low-cost manufacturing operations which, to this day, remains controversial.

  • The rise of subcontracting as the most flex
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1.2.8 In praise of cheap offshore labour? continued

There are two points which are central to this line of thinking. One, according to Wolf (2004), is that the whole process, as odd as it may sound, is about mutual exploitation. Outside firms do indeed exploit the poor by taking advantage of the profitable opportunities that a pool of cheap labour represents. But Indonesian or Chinese workers, for instance, could be said to exploit the incoming firms by extracting higher pay from them and taking advantage of opportunities that previousl
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1.2.7 In praise of cheap offshore labour?

Claims over the benefits of globalisation and the exploitation of cheap offshore labour generate strong feelings and, not surprisingly, divide opinion between those who favour the global marketplace and its detractors. The issue turns on whether the constant search for ever-cheaper manufacturing and service locations is seen as a good or a bad thing. It may appear odd, at first, to suggest that exploiting the poor of another country can, on any measure, be regarded as a good thing, but
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1.1.1 Introduction

Many of the smaller branded goods on sale to consumers in Europe and North America – the latest in clothing and footwear or the smart toys and electronic gadgets on offer – are made in factory ‘sweatshops’. Found in the backstreets of modern, Western cities, but more often than not a feature of the poorer parts of the world, factory sweatshops are an integral part of today's global economy. Increasingly, as you can see from Author(s): No creator set

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit you should be able to:

  • explain the main characteristics of ‘sweatshops’, and their presence in today's system of globalised production;

  • set out the arguments for and against overseas sweatshop exploitation;

  • consider how far the consumption of cheap branded goods makes consumers responsible for the conditions under which they are made;

  • show how consumers are distanced from overseas sweatshop exploita
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Introduction

Sweatshops and the exploitation of workers are often linked to the globalised production of ‘big brand’ labels. This unit examines how campaigners have successfully closed the distance between the brands and the sweatshops, while others argue that such production ‘kick starts’ economies into growth benefiting whole communities.

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Acknowledgements

Except for third party materials and otherwise stated (see terms and conditions), this content is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence

The material acknowledged below is contained in: Ordering the International: History, Change and Transformation (eds William B
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References

Beetham, D. (1999) Democracy and Human Rights, Cambridge, Polity Press.
Brown, C. (2001) ‘Human rights’ in Baylis, J. and Smith, S. (eds) The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Caney, S.(2001) ‘International distributive justice’ Political Studies, vol. 49, pp. 9
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