IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Regulation for the Rest of Us? Global Social Activism, Corporate Citizenship, and the Disappearance of the Political


  • Lipschutz, Ronnie


In the context of globalization, transnational social regulation is increasingly the product of private (as opposed to public) interventions into the sphere of global trade. In recognition of the widespread failure of corporations to sufficiently address the socio-economic externalities borne by workers (inadequate wages, poor working conditions, forced overtime, child labor, and lack of the right to free association), various non-governmental organizations have begun to design and implement systems of rules intended to influence corporations and bring to an end a transnational "race to the bottom." Drawing on publicly available materials, interviews, and fieldwork in Southeast Asia, I propose that what matters as much as improvements to life on the factory floor are "spillover" effects whose force extend beyond building walls into the broader society of the host country. I question whether consumer behavior alone can create the conditions in which workers will be free to exercise their rights as guaranteed by both domestic law and International Labor Organization conventions. I conclude that what is needed is greater interaction between global civil society and trade unions. For the moment, the basis for effective labor law—and regulation more generally—lies within states. Activists and civil society should focus on improving legal, political, and social conditions for workers in the host countries, rather than trying to affect corporate behavior through consumer pressure.

Suggested Citation

  • Lipschutz, Ronnie, 2003. "Regulation for the Rest of Us? Global Social Activism, Corporate Citizenship, and the Disappearance of the Political," Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, Working Paper Series qt64q087vp, Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, UC Santa Cruz.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:glinre:qt64q087vp

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:;origin=repeccitec
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item


    Globalization and Regulation;


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cdl:glinre:qt64q087vp. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Lisa Schiff). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.