In this week’s readings, we were assigned to the book Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy. The book is about how a T-Shirt goes through the commodity chain in the world, so it starts at its base form, which is cotton, and then sent off to be produced into a T-Shirt and put up for sale.
The first section of the book is about cotton. Taking placing in Texas, the cotton industry booms and produces the most cotton in the world. The U.S. runs the cotton market over smaller, poorer countries, and Oxfam, the international development organization, has a reason why this happens. They state since the government subsidies are higher compared to the rest of the world, even higher than the GDP on the poorer countries trying to compete with the U.S. This could be due to the years of production from the U.S. South that really drove that part of the economy for so many years. In my opinion, the U.S. has this huge monopoly over the cotton industry, and it shows, through my previous example on what subsidies they give to cotton farmers. On top of that, many institutions, like Texas Tech, have some of the best places to study and improve cotton growing, producing and collecting. With these universities having such close proximity to the Texas cotton farmers, they have such a huge advantage over other parts of the world with the amount of research and time put into this plant.
The second section focused on where the cotton went to: China. China is a major part of the world economy, as many raw materials flow into the country and are exported from their factories. The country has so many of these factories because of the cheap labor force that is readily available in the country. There are so many factories, like the Shanghai Number 36 Cotton Yarn Factory, implying there are hundreds of other factories like this, and the workers are usually young women, because the mentality is these women are not as pushy, or want to have benefits that men would want. And, the women see that working in these factories are so much more of an improvement compared to the farm life they usually come from, much like Jiang Lang. These factories also come with the problems of accidents, and much highlighted in the book were from the Industrial Revolution in England, so stories of people getting killed in these factories became common. Even though safety regulations became common place (mostly) around the world, there are still accidents that can happen, so the worker have to be extra careful when working. And this doesn’t include the chemicals and fumes the workers are exposed to everyday, in and out of work. So, either way it hurts the workers’ health.