The Anti-Sweatshop Movement: Constructing Corporate Moral Agency in the Global Apparel Industry [Abstract]

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 15.2 (Fall 2001)

December 4, 2001

This essay examines the impact of activist mobilization within the anti-sweatshop movement on shared understandings of corporate moral agency. The anti-sweatshop movement represents a transnational advocacy network, which arose in response to the global restructuring of the apparel industry and is organizing to demand that apparel manufacturers be accountable to communities, workers, and consumers. The movement has been central in contesting received notions of corporate rights and responsibilities and in reconstituting the boundaries of the corporate moral agent. Underpinning this investigation is a discussion of the ascription of moral agency to collective actors. With the aid of a relational approach, it is argued that corporate moral agency is a construct emerging out of social historical interactions that reflect processes through which the boundaries of actors are drawn and justified. Through the use of rhetoric linking private economic transactions and international labor and human rights standards, the movement has successfully challenged corporate practices that were previously considered unremarkable.


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