Rules without Rights: Land, Labor, and Private Authority in the Global Economy

ISBN : 9780198863281

Tim Bartley
368 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
May 2020
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Activists have exposed startling forms of labor exploitation and environmental degradation in global industries, leading many large retailers and brands to adopt standards for fairness and sustainability. This book is about the idea that transnational corporations can push these standards through their global supply chains, and in effect, pull factories, forests, and farms out of their local contexts and up to global best practices. For many scholars and practitioners, this kind of private regulation and global standard-setting can provide an alternative to regulation by territorially-bound, gridlocked, or incapacitated nation states, potentially improving environments and working conditions around the world and protecting the rights of exploited workers, impoverished farmers, and marginalized communities. But can private, voluntary standards actually create meaningful forms of regulation? Are forests and factories around the world actually being made into sustainable ecosystems and decent workplaces? Can global norms remake local orders?

This book provides striking new answers by comparing the private regulation of land and labor in democratic and authoritarian settings. Case studies of sustainable forestry and fair labour standards in Indonesia and China show not only how transnational standards are implemented 'on the ground' but also how they are constrained and reconfigured by domestic governance. Combining rich multi-method analyses, a powerful comparative approach, and a new theory of private regulation, Rules without Rights reveals the contours and contradictions of transnational governance.
Transformations in Governance is a major new academic book series from Oxford University Press. It is designed to accommodate the impressive growth of research in comparative politics, international relations, public policy, federalism, environmental and urban studies concerned with the dispersion of authority from central states up to supranational institutions, down to subnational governments, and side-ways to public-private networks. It brings together work that significantly advances our understanding of the organization, causes, and consequences of multilevel and complex governance. The series is selective, containing annually a small number of books of exceptionally high quality by leading and emerging scholars.

The series targets mainly single-authored or co-authored work, but it is pluralistic in terms of disciplinary specialization, research design, method, and geographical scope. Case studies as well as comparative studies, historical as well as contemporary studies, and studies with a national, regional, or international focus are all central to its aims. Authors use qualitative, quantitative, formal modeling, or mixed methods. A trade mark of the books is that they combine scholarly rigour with readable prose and an attractive production style.

The series is edited by Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Walter Mattli of the University of Oxford.


1 Transnational Standards and Empty Spaces
2 A Substantive Theory of Transnational Governance
3 Purity and Danger: The Dilemmas of Sustainable Timber in Indonesia
4 The State Strikes Back: Forest Certification in Authoritarian China
5 Beneath Compliance: Corporate Social Responsibility and Labor Standards in China
6 Contentious Codes: The Contested Implications of Labor Standards in Indonesia
7 Re-Centering the State: Toward Place-Conscious Transnational Governance?

About the author: 

Tim Bartley is Associate Professor of Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis, and studies globalization, regulation, and social movements. He has published articles in the American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, Social Problems, and a number of other journals. His 2015 book, Looking behind the Label: Global Industries and the Conscientious Consumer, examined the meaning of 'voting with your dollars' and the impacts of voluntary standards for sustainable and/or fair production of food, forest products, apparel, and electronics.

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