Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-dc8c957cd-n2smj Total loading time: 0.299 Render date: 2022-01-28T12:36:17.875Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Introduction: The Enduring Age of the Sweatshop

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 January 2020

Ashok Kumar
Affiliation:
Birkbeck, University of London
Get access

Summary

It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness.

– Karl Marx

On 23 April 2013, a national strike or hartal, called by the official opposition to Bangladesh's ruling Awami League, was in its third day and traffic in Dhaka was lighter than usual. Factory owners were under pressure to get their employees back to work. Only a few weeks earlier, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association had reported that the combined cost of recent hartals was estimated at $500 million. Workers were scarce throughout the area's industrial corridors, but could still be found in Rana Plaza, a towering structure that loomed over the Dhaka-Aricha Highway. There, 20 miles from Dhaka in the town of Savar Upsala, on the main artery connecting the city to its garment districts in the suburbs, some five thousand workers worked on eight cramped floors, making clothes for Walmart, Primark, Mango, Benetton, and other Western brands.

Like a Bollywood villain, the man who owned the place could be seen driving around the town on his motorcycle, ‘as untouchable as a mafia don’, accompanied by several paid heavies. His name was Sohel Rana and he had acquired the land for his five-factory complex – which he humbly named after himself – through threats and intimidation, obtained building permits through bribes and graft, and constructed its top floors with no regard to government regulations. His position as Secretary of the local student chapter of the Awami League had enabled him to exercise control over local strikes and use them as bargaining chips. Rumours about guns and drug smuggling on the side had long been circulated.

The sound of an explosion echoed through Sohel Rana's third floor. Terrified workers ran outside and were told by supervisors to leave early. An engineer, Abdur Razzak, was called in to inspect the deep cracks that now appeared in the concrete pillars and walls. He warned that the building was structurally unsound, declaring it ‘vulnerable’. But Rana would not accept this verdict. As reporters arrived on the scene, he gestured at the damage, explaining, ‘This is not a crack … the plaster on the wall is broken, nothing more.

Type
Chapter
Information
Monopsony Capitalism
Power and Production in the Twilight of the Sweatshop Age
, pp. 1 - 14
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×