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The wages of sweat : A social history perspective on the fight against sweatshops – P. Barraud de Lagerie

Pauline Barraud de Lagerie
Institut de recherche interdisciplinaire en sciences sociales (IRISSO, UMR CNRS 7170), Paris-Dauphine University, place du Maréchal-de-Lattre-de-Tassigny, 75775 Paris cedex 16, France

Available online 9 September 2013 on Science direct
doi : 10.1016/j.soctra.2013.08.003

The social history of the fight against sweatshops casts light on the current movement in favor of corporate social responsibility. But making the head of a chain of subcontractors responsible for seeing to the well-being of those at the end of the chain is not contemporaneous with present-day globalization and North/South relations. Since the 19th century, when the sweatshop system appeared, those who champion the workers have pointed a finger at those who, though they only exercise indirect control, profit from their exploitation. As our historical analysis emphasizes, though in other contexts the issue of poor working conditions sometimes found solutions that (partially) avoided holding the principal liable, what characterizes the anti-sweatshop movement in the context of globalization is its nearly exclusive focus on bringing pressure to bear on the contractor at the head of the chain.

Article Outline

  • 1. The official prohibition of the sweating system
  • 2. The “revival of the sweatshop” and reinforcement of the police
  • 3. Offshore sweatshops and private regulation
  • 4. Conclusion
  • References

Sociologie du Travail
Volume 55, Supplement 1, November 2013
Translated by Gabrielle Varro