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The Promise and Limits of Private Power
Promoting Labor Standards in a Global Economy

$29.99 (P)

Part of Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics

  • Date Published: April 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107670884

$ 29.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • This book examines and evaluates various private initiatives to enforce fair labor standards within global supply chains. Using unique data (internal audit reports, and access to more than 120 supply chain factories and 700 interviews in 14 countries) from several major global brands, including NIKE, HP, and the International Labor Organization's Factory Improvement Programme in Vietnam, this book examines both the promise and the limitations of different approaches to actually improve working conditions, wages, and working hours for the millions of workers employed in today's global supply chains. Through a careful, empirically grounded analysis of these programs, this book illustrates the mix of private and public regulation needed to address these complex issues in a global economy.

    • Empirical contribution: first study that gains access to the internal factory audits of major corporations and analyzes them, showing the true functions of thousands of factories scattered throughout the developing world that produce goods we consume every day; analyzes current labor conditions and labor rights within today's global supply chains
    • Theoretical contribution: explores how private voluntary and state regulations can combine to tackle labor problems in a world of shifting firm boundaries, dynamic supply chains and growing efforts to complement traditional forms of regulation with emerging private forms of regulation
    • Practical contribution: suggests pragmatic strategies for key actors, such as multinational corporations, transnational NGOs, governments, in promoting labor standards
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    Reviews & endorsements

    “Richard Locke confronts issues that are of central concern to scholars, as well as to activists, firms, and consumers: Under what conditions, and through which mechanisms, will workers involved in global supply chains be treated fairly? Locke’s answer is that no single mechanism – corporate codes of conduct, capacity building, or host government regulation – is sufficient to effect improvements in workers’ conditions. Locke argues protecting workers will require a combination of firm-level efforts, long-standing supply-chain relationships, and government effort. He draws on a rich collection of factory-level audit data, as well as in-depth interviews in a range of countries, to explore the determinants of variation in workers’ rights outcomes, and to illustrate the conditions under which sustained improvements might occur.”
    Layna Mosley, Professor of Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    “This is an outstanding book examining labor issues in global supply chains. The key strength is the level and quality of access Richard Locke has to company-level data. This type and level of access is quite unprecedented in political science. Theoretically, the book raises important issues regarding the efficacy of voluntary regulation, particularly the merits of compliance-based versus capacity-based approaches.”
    Aseem Prakash, Walker Family Professor for the College of Arts and Sciences, University of Washington

    “This book is seminal in setting out how collaborative governance of global supply chains can deliver better employment conditions and distributive justice. Global business, governments, and NGOs with different beliefs about the proper role of business and the state should treat this as a wake-up call. The Promise and Limits of Private Power will quickly become the definitive reference on labor standards and set a high benchmark for those who study this issue.”
    Professor Mari Sako, Said Business School, University of Oxford

    "Richard M. Locke’s book, The Promise and Limits of Private Power: Promoting Labor Standards in a Global Economy, does a remarkable job in this hotly contested terrain of dissecting the daunting challenges of trying to improve global labour standards, while also outlining sustainable solutions that are supported by a range of key industry actors … Locke’s analysis has very significant methodological implications for anyone seeking to understand labour standards in the global economy."
    Gary Gereffi, Socio-Economic Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2013
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107670884
    • length: 228 pages
    • dimensions: 226 x 152 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.36kg
    • contains: 20 b/w illus. 26 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The rise of private voluntary regulation in a global economy
    2. The promise and perils of private compliance programs
    3. Does private compliance improve labor standards? Lessons from Nike
    4. Capability building and its limitations
    5. Alternative approaches to capability building: a tale of two Nike suppliers
    6. Are we looking in the wrong places?: Labor standards and upstream business practices in global supply chains
    7. Complements or substitutes? Private power, public regulation, and the enforcement of labor standards in global supply chains
    Conclusion: collaboration, compliance, and the construction of new institutions in a world of global supply chains.

  • Author

    Richard M. Locke, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Richard M. Locke is Class of 1922 Professor of Political Science and Management, Deputy Dean of the Sloan School of Management and Head of the Political Science Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His current research focuses on improving labor and environmental conditions in global supply chains. Working with leading firms such as NIKE, Coca Cola and HP, Locke and his students have been showing how corporate profitability and sustainable business practices can be reconciled. Locke is the author of Working in America (with Paul Osterman, Thomas Kochan and Michael Piore, 2001), Employment Relations in a Changing World Economy (with Thomas Kochan and Michael Piore, 1995) and Remaking the Italian Economy (1995, 1997). He was awarded the Jamieson Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2008 and the MIT Class of 1960 Teaching Innovation Award in 2007. Locke was named a 2005 Faculty Pioneer in Academic Leadership by The Aspen Institute.

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