Networks, nongovernmental organisations and world civic politics: transnational anti-sweatshop advocacy and the global garment industry

Shae Elizabeth Garwood

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis examines anti-sweatshop nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and the transnational anti-sweatshop network as political actors in the global garment industry. It focuses on the role of Northern-based NGOs in a transnational advocacy network aimed at improving working conditions and ensuring workers’ rights. Drawing on campaign materials, NGO websites, corporate documents and interviews, it presents case studies of FairWear, United Students Against Sweatshops, STITCH and the Clean Clothes Campaign. While comparing these NGOs, the thesis analyses their links with the transnational anti-sweatshop network and the types of politics activists use to influence powerful actors in the industry. It argues that anti-sweatshop NGOs have been creative, dynamic and largely unrecognised political actors whose influence and accomplishments are notable given their small size, scant resources and the scope of the problems they confront. These NGOs have used their particular geographic and political positions in the global economy to develop consumer campaigns that pressure corporate retailers to acknowledge responsibility for workers in their supply chains. Yet the concentration of power among large retailers and the unwillingness of states to regulate the industry place considerable constraints on activists’ abilities to achieve their goals. This thesis contributes to the growing literature on NGOs in global civil society by combining analysis of structural power with more subtle forms of discursive and communicative power. It applies a boomerang model of transnational advocacy networks to the specific circumstances of anti-sweatshop advocacy, demonstrating both the different points of leverage that NGOs use when confronting powerful global corporations rather than states, and the persistent structural problems they face in achieving their goals.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2010


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