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Mobilizing Global Social Justice Responsibility-Taking. Samples from our book-in-progress Michele Micheletti (Karlstad University) Dietlind Stolle (Michele Micheletti) Project financed by the Swedish Council of Research. Political Consumerism. Use of the market as an arena for politics

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Mobilizing Global Social Justice Responsibility-Taking

Samples from our book-in-progress

Michele Micheletti (Karlstad University)

Dietlind Stolle (Michele Micheletti)

Project financed by the Swedish Council of Research

Madison-Wisconsin Oct 20 2006

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Political Consumerism

Use of the market as an arena for politics

Three forms

Boycotts – don’t buy for political, ethical, environmental reasons

“Buycotts” – do buy for these reasons

Discursive actions – opinion & value expression in communicative efforts


Madison-Wisconsin Oct 20 2006

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Paper HighlightsFocus: No-Sweat, Just Clothes, Anti-Sweatshop, Clean Clothes Movement

  • Political Responsibility & Sweatshops:

    • Responsibility problems; responsbility models

  • Short Overview of Anti-Sweatshop Movement

  • Envisioned role of consumers in the movement

  • What force has political consumerism?

Madison-Wisconsin Oct 20 2006

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ExamplesProblems in global garment industry in Logo Sweatshops

“At the Hung Wah factory, young women work from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., seven days a week, sewing Nike clothing for an average wage of 22 cents an hour.”

“Keds made in China by 16-year-old girls applying toxic glue with their bare hands, the only tool given them, a toothbrush.” 

“Timberland shoes are made in China by 16 and 17-year-old girls forced to work 14 hours a day, seven days a week for 22 cents an hour, often in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The young women are threatened and coached to lie to any auditors visiting the factory.”- National Labor Council report 2004

Madison-Wisconsin Oct 20 2006

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Why Problems Here?Globalization, Government,Corporations & Consumers

No Global Government“Earth has no CEO. No Board of Directors. No management team…” – UN, World Bank, and World Resources Institute

Conventional Model of Political ResponsibilityNation-state government model out of touch with global times

→ social justice responsibility vacuums

Global Garment CorporationsFiercely competitive buyer-driven corporations “race to the bottom” to price themselves in the market

Consumers Demanding good personalized “mass” fashion at “good” prices

→ mobile outsourced fashion manufacturing & sweatshops

Madison-Wisconsin Oct 20 2006

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Anti-Sweatshop Focus on Corporations

“[G]lobalization has generated layers of transactions and institutional practices that envelop and cut across the system of states.”

Globalization’s most visible manifestation

Ca. 70,000 transnational firms in operation

with ca 700,000 subsidiaries and millions of suppliers connected through distributed networks globally

They are like “elephants standing in the center of rooms…”

Speech by John G. Ruggie, Professor of International Affairs, Harvard University and Special Representative on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises

October 2005

Madison-Wisconsin Oct 20 2006

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Anti-Sweatshop Focus on Consumers & Consumption Practices

“Choose it, colour it, sign it, buy it”

“Divided spring – real self, real style”

“The best style is your very own”

“Everyone is a star”

“Clothing and accessories that enhance personal style”

Madison-Wisconsin Oct 20 2006

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Who’s responsible for sweatshops?

Cause & treatment responsibility

Everyone involved with garment consumption

“The social relations that connect us to others are not restricted to nation state borders. Our actions are conditioned by and contribute to institutions that affect distant others, and their actions contribute to the operation of institutions that affect us. Because our actions assume these others as condition for our own actions, …we have made practical moral commitments to them by virtue of our actions. That is, even when we are not conscious of or actively deny a moral relationship to these other people, to the extent that our actions depend on the assumption that distant others are doing certain things, we have obligations of justice in relation to them.”

Iris Marion Young, “Responsibility and Global Justice: A Social Connection Model,” Philosophy and Social Policy (winter 2006)

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Overview Contemporary Anti-Sweatshop Political Consumerism

Formative events for North American & European Branches

European Branch: Lockout of women workers in Philipine factory making clothes for C & Afor demanding legal minimum wage (1990)

North American Branch: Establishment of amalgamated Union of Needle, Industrial, and Technical Employees (UNITE!) & sweatshop raid in El Monte, California (1995)


Madison-Wisconsin Oct 20 2006

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Transnational Movement

Teaming up of Old & New Civil Society

Church groups, student groups, think tanks, policy institutes, foundations, consumer-oriented organizations, international organizations, local to global labor unions, labor-oriented groups, specific anti-sweatshop groups, no sweat businesses, business investors, and old & new international humanitarian networks and groups

Figure 1 – 106 main groups, networks & organizations (CSR-oriented groups not included)

All use “sweatshop” metaphor as their master frame

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Study of Key Anti-Sweatshop Movement Actors

From old & new “membership-based” civil society groups & associations

  • Unions (UNITE, Gobal Unions)

  • International Humanitarian (Oxfam, Global Exchange)

  • Specific “no-sweat” groups (United Students Against Sweatshops, Clean Clothes Campaign)

  • Internet Spin Doctors (Adbusters)

    Sources: Interviews, documents and other materials from key actors, secondary sources

Madison-Wisconsin Oct 20 2006

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Different Envisioned Role for Consumers to Play in Social Justice Responsibility-TakingWork-still-in-progress

  • Support group for other causes

    • unions: consumers are “broad, ideologically benign community” to mobilize “to make the struggle for justice for workers more palatable to the public in an antilabor climate”

  • Critical shopping mass

    - USAS & international humanitarian organizations: consumers can “use their purchasing power to tilt the balance, however slightly, in favour of the poor;” “Organizing communities of consumers can make sweatfree purchases dynamic and effective”

  • Spearhead force hitting corporations where it hurts most

    • Clean Clothes Campaign: uses opportunities opened up by buyer-driven corporate vulnerability: “Brand name companies compete intensely for consumer loyalty, and therefore consumers can influence how these companies operate.”

  • Ontological agent of societal change

    • Adbusters Media Foundation: “the world can change if consumers change their relationship to consumption”

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Envisioned Role for Consumers Affects Movement Actors’ Campaign Strategies & TacticsWork-still-in-progress

Thematic campaigning penetrates underlying mechanisms leading to social justice responsibility vacuums; goal is change in predispositions, worldview, consumer outlook on role of consumption in their lives

Episodic campaigning focuses on particular issues, actors, puts responsibility claims on specific wrong-doers (Nike, Walmart, H & M…)

Preliminary Findings: (1) Support group, critical mass, spearhead force; more focus on episodic campaigning; (2) Most movement actors focus on episodic campaigning; event & actor focus (exceptions: Adbusters; UNITE’s Behind the Label Campaign)

(See Shanto Iyengar “Framing Responsibility for Political Issues” Annals, AAPSS 1999 for initial discussion on these frames)

Madison-Wisconsin Oct 20 2006

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Effectiveness of Episodal Campaigning and Anti-Sweatshop ActivismEffectiveness Chain ModelSome Preliminary Results

Builds on classical studies of power & influence, Keck & Sikknik’s work on transnational advocacy networks; mainstream political science analysis of public policy processes

How measure activist effects on market share and stock prices?

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Force of Political Consumerism ActivismMicheletti’s Thoughts

  • Need to distinguish between light & thick political consumerism?

    • Thin version: better buying, supporting unions when triggered episodically by mobilizing campaigns

      • Problems of price-sensitivity; fickliness; incongruencies between saying and doing

      • Implication: harnessing consumer power is never-ending-task

    • Thick/deep version: changing our consumption predispositions and deep values about role of consumption as social marker; long-term goal of ontological movement

      - New “non-price-sensitive” relationship to consumption with staying power

Madison-Wisconsin Oct 20 2006