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The Sweatshop Regime, by Alessandra Mezzadri

The Sweatshop Regime

This book explores the processes producing and reproducing the garment sweatshop in India. Drawing from Marxian and feminist insights, the book theorizes the sweatshop as a complex ‘regime’ of exploitation and oppression,  jointly crafted by global, regional and local actors, and working across productive and reproductive realms.

The analysis illustrates the links between the physical and social materiality of production, unveiling the distinct circuits of exploitation corresponding to different clothing items. As these circuits change across India, on the basis of regional patterns of product specialisation, so does the logic of the sweatshop, its composition, the social profile of the labouring poor engaged in garment work, and their working conditions. Through the eyes of sourcing actors, the whole country can be re-imagined as a giant department store, with different garment collections exhibited at different floors, and created through the sweat of different sets of labourers.Highlighting the great social differentiation of the garment workforce in factories, workshops and homes scattered across the Indian Subcontinent, the narrative also unveils the multiple patterns of unfreedom this workforce is subject to. Tese exceed narrow definitions of unfreedom mainly based on forced labour, which are becoming dominant in the debate on global labour standards and ‘modern slavery’. By discussing interplays between productive and reproductive realms and processes of commodification and exploitation, on the contrary, the analysis highlights how social difference and unfreedom pre-exist the sweatshop and at the same time are also reproduced by it. It also highlights the role different actors – like global buyers, regional suppliers and retailers, and labour contractors– play in these processes. Indeed, the book depicts the sweatshop as a complex joint enterprise against the labouring poor, shaped and steered by multiple lords, and where production and circulation – of garments, processes and people – intertwine in manifold ways. It also shows how the labouring body is systematically and inexorably depleted and consumed by garment work, until it is finally ejected from the sweatshop. Finally, the book highlights how the study of India’s sweatshop regime informs contemporary debates on industrial modernity, comparative advantage and cheap labour, modern slavery, and ethical consumerism.

Alessandra Mezzadri

 teaches at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her research interests focus on globalisation and processes of labour informalisation; materialist approaches to global commodity chain analysis and global industrial systems, labour standards and CSR; gender and feminist theory; and the political economy of India. She has investigated in depth the Indian garment industry over a span of ten years, and illustrated the different ways in which distinct regional sweatshops are formed and reproduced across the subcontinent

Cambridge University Press

The Sweatshop Regime
The Sweatshop Regime


Official Text by Cambridge University Press

ISBN: 978-1-107-11696-2

Alessandra's publication can be purchased through Amazon


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