This project asks how the actors and tools of global governance converge (or diverge) to regulate labor conditions in the electronics manufacturing industry in China and Taiwan. The contemporary configuration of transnational capitalism into complex supply chains - with branding, financial services and intellectual property managed in the 'North' while manufacturing and assembly is performed in the 'South' - is a much analyzed characteristic of our global era. In response to image-damaging anti-sweatshop campaigns, large brand names have taken up the call for 'corporate social responsibility' (CSR) by creating industry-wide 'corporate codes of conduct' (CCC), intended to serve as minimum standards for labor and environmental rights throughout the production chain.
The rise of these forms of 'soft law' have led many to conclude that we are entering a new era of transnational governance in which soft, private and/or 'flexible' norms will increasingly displace 'hard' law and regulation. Through discourse analysis, interviews and ethnographic observation in one key transnational industry, electronics manufacturing, this project will document the ways in which transnational CSR labor standards are 'localised' at the various places where they are to be applied, and the variations in meaning and effects that arise from these localizing practices.