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Slaves to Fashion: Poverty and Abuse in the New Sweatshops

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0472030224
ISBN-10: 0472030221
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press (October 4, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0472030221
  • ISBN-13: 978-0472030224
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #969,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By James W. Russell on December 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is the most comprehensive and up to date book I know of about sweatshops in the U.S. and worldwide. It is must reading for anti-sweatshop activists and anyone else interested in this ugly seamy side of globalized capitalism.

Ross endorses the U.S. Government Accounting Office's definition of a sweatshop as "a business that regularly violates both wage or child labor and safety or health laws." Employing that definition, he concludes that there are about a quarter million sweatshop workers in the United States. Many are immigrants in the apparel industry.

He shows that sweatshops were rampant in the U.S. economy at the beginning of the twentieth century. As a result of the 1937 Fair Labor Standards Act, they declined greatly from the 1940s to the 1970s. But then a confluence of factors--including globalization and industrial deregulation--resulted in the resurgence of sweatshop employment in the 1980s that has continued to today.

He blames the international expansion of sweatshops on deregulated global capitalism that has produced a competitive race to the bottom among low wage countries. The last part of the book focus on the anti sweatshop movement and the development of effective labor standards.
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Format: Hardcover
ross's 337 pages is seemingly daunting with charts, statistics, historical and conceptual overview, until you read it. it is very accessible even for someone like me who is a new comer to the issue. it is written simply and non-technically. i didn't know anything, not really, about sweat shops. but from the beginning ross takes on a very personal approach by stating his reasons for writing this book - his parents were garment factory workers!

he doesn't blame the re-introduction of sweatshops in the states and around the world on a single issue like global capitalism, which he does cite as the greatest contributor to it, but maps out a complex web of lack of uninization, lack of law-enforcement, and political philosophies.
it is an extensively researched book that has helped me to understand the scope and the nature of the problem, that is violation of human dignity through unethical practice of power.

the title is a bit misleading. it doesn't have much to do about the asthetics, marketing, or the cultural psychology of fashion. fashion is used in much more literal way.
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Format: Paperback
I found this book to be informative, but not without its faults. There is new information on almost every page, and it is very well documented. However, Ross' approach frequently chafed:

Using "they" to reference his own previous work has the appearance of appealing to an authority which happens to be himself. He should be using "we" when citing his own work.

Ross argues that the apparel industry consciously plays their suppliers against one another despite the need for close supervision of contractors for quality control and innovation (see the section "Proximity, Time, Quality, and Efficiency") whereas Oliver Williamson (The Economic Institutions of Capitalism) and others have shown these "transaction costs" are the key motivation for vertical integration. I found the book's implied assertion that there is a gentlemen's agreement to divide and conquer the contractors to be unlikely and not very closely argued, but surely a massive conspiracy theory is not required? For example, it is the one manufacturing industry that has a high risk to would-be market consolidators thanks to shifting preferences (literally, "fashion") and a low threshold for entry thanks to the low cost of capital required. Note that Ross does not explicitly claim the conspiracy, but says that this is the strategy of the leading retailers without attempting to explain why they would have exactly the same motivations and opportunities as every other vertically integrated industry and then choose not to vertically integrate.
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