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Thesis

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V Xie

on 9 December 2014

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Transcript of Thesis

April 24, 2013
Collapse of Rana Plaza, an 8-story commercial building containing 5 clothing factories, in the Savar suburb of Dhaka, Bangladesh

-Final Death Toll: over
1,100
workers
-
2,500
workers injured
-Over
200
workers still missing
May 16, 2013
Partial Collapse of shoe factory in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
November 24, 2012
Tazreen Fashions factory fire in Ashulia district of Dhaka, Bangladesh
Trade Liberalization
-1980's: garment import/ export quotas lifted and trade tariffs lowered
-Possible for retailers to manufacture clothes anywhere in the world that is optimal for profit
Local Players
-Construction of factories and factory jobs very attractive
-It is feared that too much local regulation and enforcement will raise prices of production and cause loss of interest from foreign retailers
-In case of Rana Plaza, the practice of politicians signing permits for new factories without time to clear safety regulations is
not
unusual
Apparel Companies & Retailers
-Constant race to the bottom in searching for lowest production costs and wages in the world
-Hands-off approach: use of sub-contractors
"Fast Fashion" Model of Production
quick response model
"classic" example: Zara claims to just need 2-3 weeks to get a new clothing line in stores
Due to limitations of contemporary technology in garment production and retailing, the brunt of meeting much shorter deadlines and cheaper costs lies on garment workers, factory owners, and sub-contractors.
Design
Production
Transportation
Inventory
Consumers
-Contemporary clothing prices are lower than previous decades
-American consumers are spending less of their overall income on clothing, but able to get more items
1900
1950
2004
2010
of
household
income
spent on
apparel
of
household
income
spent on
apparel
of
household
income
spent on
apparel
of
household
income
spent on
apparel
15%
12%
4%
2.5%
To what extent do American consumers' apparel consumption patterns change in lieu of garment industrial disasters like the Rana Plaza and other social issues in the industry?
Literature Review
A Structurational Approach to the Influence of Garment Industrial Disasters and Labor Abuses on Apparel Consumption Patterns
Existing empirical studies (Joergens 2006 and Kozar & Hiller Connell 2012, 2013) consistently find a "knowledge-attitude-behavior gap" or "knowledge-behavior gap" among first world apparel consumers
Scholars from various disciplines have proposed theoretical frameworks to explain this knowledge-behavior gap
Carrington, Neville, & Whitwell 2010

Valor 2007
Niinimaki 2010
Soron 2010
Cognitive Frameworks
Intentions
Implementation
Intention
Actual
Behavioral
Control
Situational
Context
Behavior
Ambivalence
(conflict about what to do)
Should
(ethical obligation)
Want
(conflicting identities)
Can
(personal action)
personal costs
self-perception of
citizenship
visibility
importance
attribution of
responsibility
empowerment
facilitator/
obstacle
Neutralization
Neutralization
Neutralization
Sociological Frameworks
Theory
Vita Xie
Senior Seminar
Fall 2014

Photo Credit: A.M. Ahad/ Associated Press
Web of Responsibility
Methods
Existing theories on consumer culture (i.e. Bauman, Beck, Giddens, etc.): in modern times, self-identity is an ongoing creation and displayed through consumption
Consumer choice is irrational and an individual's values are poor predictors of actual behavior. Thus, individuals that identify ethical commitment as
essential
to their identity are more likely to make ethical purchases.
Critiques this individualistic approach and points out there is less attention on the "infrastructure of consumption" and normative (over)consumption
To bridge the individualistic approach in consumer culture to larger social structural forces, incorporation of Anthony Giddens' theory of
structuration
Agency
Structures
individual's "continuous flow of conduct"
"rules and resources" of social systems
Individuals' actions simultaneously draw upon and reproduce structures and the systems and/ or institutions they entail.
Structural Properties and Social Systems of Globalization & Modernity
The Consequences of Modernity
1990
Globalization
= increased reliance on abstract systems and increased interconnectedness of personal life and everyday actions with larger systems and institutions
Modernity
= risk and danger increased in both quantity and intensity
Contradictory Aspects of Modern Life
Privatism & Engagement
Displacement & Reembedding
intersection of pragmatic acceptance & activism
intersection of estrangement & familiarity
4 interviewees
78 survey respondents
Pseudonyms
Yu

Sofia

Ariel

Jack
Age
21

22

22

22
Gender
Female

Female

"Non-binary"

Male
Race and/ or Ethnicity
Chinese/ Taiwanese

White/ European

White/ Latina/ Spanish

Hispanic
Education Level
Bachelor's

Bachelor's

H.S., some college

Bachelor's
Perceived Class
Middle Class

Middle Class

"Poor"/ Low Income

"Low Class"
Qualitative Interviews
Quantitative Surveys
average age: 24.69 years old
median age: 22 years old

youngest: 18 years old
oldest: 60 years old
Gender
69.2%
Female
30.8%
Male
Ethnicity
44.9%
Caucasian
21.8%
East Asian
7.7%
Latina
3.8%
South Asian
2.6%
African
3.8%
Caribbean
12.8%
Fill-in "Other"
2.6%
Middle Eastern
Highest Level of Education
42.3%
High School or Equivalent
46.2%
Undergraduate Degree
3.8%
Master's Degree
3.8%
Professional Degree
2.6%
Doctorate
1.3%
NA
Hypothesis #1: The knowledge-behavior gap is still prevalent among young adult American consumers.
Knowledge of Social Issues in Garment Industry
Ethical Apparel Consumption Behavior
"I am familiar with the use of child labor as a practice among clothing manufacturers."
"I am familiar with the practice of foreign manufacturers not paying their employees at least the local minimum wage."
"I am familiar with the practice of foreign manufacturers providing an unsafe workplace for their employees."
"I am familiar with the practice of foreign clothing manufacturers having their employees work more 40 hours a week."
66.7%
Yes
33.3%
No
74.4%
Yes
25.6%
No
"I am familiar with the practice of US manufacturers providing an unsafe workplace for their employees."
44.9%
Yes
53.8%
No
"I am familiar with the practice of US manufacturers not paying their employees at least the local minimum wage."
71.8%
Yes
26.9%
No
46.2%
Yes
53.8%
No
62.8%
Yes
37.2%
No
"I am familiar with the practice of US clothing manufacturers having their employees work more 40 hours a week."
47.4%
Yes
52.6%
No
"I have actively sought out information about the conditions in which a company's clothes or accessories are manufactured."
"I have boycotted an apparel brand or retailer because of reports that the company's goods were produced in a sweatshop."
"I have boycotted an apparel brand or retailer because of reports that the company used child labor."
"I have paid more for clothes that I knew were made under fair labor standards."
"A company's positive record on the treatment of workers in the production of their clothing or accessories influenced my purchase decision."
"A company's negative record on the treatment of workers in the production of their clothing or accessories influenced my purchase decision."
"I have boycotted an apparel brand or retailer because of reports that the company's goods were produced in unsafe working conditions/ factories."
Bivariate tests between knowledge of social issues (independent variable) and corresponding ethical behavior (dependent variable) resulted in no statistically significant correlations.
Clothing = pragmatic necessity (38.5% survey respondents chose "necessity/ need" as the single
most
important factor that affects their clothing purchases)

Apparel consumption bound by practicality of budgets/ money (20.5% survey respondents chose "price" as the single
most
important factor that affects their clothing purchases)
$$$
Money and consumption also means of activism in social issues in garment industry.

"Consumers have to be more aware of who they're
supporting
, who they are
buying
from."- Sofia

Boycotting = withdrawal of money = withdrawal of support
Price and money becomes focus of
conflict
between privatism & engagement in ethical apparel consumption
When asked if $17.51 is an acceptable price for a plain cotton T-shirt that claims to be ethically made:
"$17.51 for a plain T-shirt? It's too much for me...it sucks because it's like I would want to support the cause and I'm all about everything they're promoting, but at the same time, price is such a bigger issue than anything else..."- Ariel

Issue of inconvenience and lack of well-known practical solutions and alternatives to incorporate into daily life
"It's hard to care about countries thousands of miles away from home."-Jack

"Because so much of it is outsourced, I feel like Americans will have a hard time feeling a pull...that emotional connection, it's kind of something you know is wrong, but you don't feel that incentive to do something about it."-Yu
"I am familiar with the practice of foreign manufacturers not paying their employees at least the local minimum wage."
"I am familiar with the practice of foreign manufacturers providing an unsafe workplace for their employees."
"I am familiar with the practice of foreign clothing manufacturers having their employees work more 40 hours a week."
74.4%
Yes
25.6%
No
"I am familiar with the practice of US manufacturers providing an unsafe workplace for their employees."
44.9%
Yes
53.8%
No
"I am familiar with the practice of US manufacturers not paying their employees at least the local minimum wage."
71.8%
Yes
26.9%
No
46.2%
Yes
53.8%
No
62.8%
Yes
37.2%
No
"I am familiar with the practice of US clothing manufacturers having their employees work more 40 hours a week."
47.4%
Yes
52.6%
No
Hypothesis #2: Within the issues of ethical apparel consumption, individual agents are constrained by larger structures and systems.
Constructing Self-Identity in Modern Times
Clothing = beyond mere practicality (26.9% survey respondents chose "self-identity" as the meaning of clothing that is most important to them)

Giddens: consumption choices are "not only about how you act but who to be"
Importance of clothing in LGBTQA fluid identities

"Clothing helps me be more fluid between feminine and masculine self-identity in a more obvious like manner."-Sophia
Clothing = representing aspirations/ desired socioeconomic status
Clothing in social interactions: convey a certain identity to others and way to promote ourselves for jobs and opportunities in professional settings
If I want to look a certain way, I have to shop at certain places. And those places are producing clothes unethically. But if I boycott them, how am I going to look the way I want to look?"-Jack
While Giddens was optimistic that individual agents' reflexivity and the opportunities globalization provides will provoke activism, structuring properties of modernity constrain the potential of reflexivity in the social issues of the garment industry.
While agency is both enabled and constrained by structures, Giddens believed that reflexivity (reflection of past & present actions) will allow agents to penetrate structures.
Full transcript