The Specific Effects of Globalization throughout Fugitive Denim
Globalization, which is best defined as the expansion of cultural, political, economical and ideological relationships regarding worldwide social exchange and interdependencies, is the underlying motif in Rachel Louise Snyder’s novel, Fugitive Denim (Conley 531). In this work, Snyder uses a theoretical pair of denim jeans to explore the workings of the global market, from the harvesting of the cotton used in making jeans to the fashion design behind the pants seen in stores around the world. Being the beneficiary of inexpensive goods, capitalist nations like the United States and much of the European Union neglect to realize their low-cost end products come about as a result of outsourcing to underdeveloped nations. While this outsourcing benefits the “overdeveloped” nations, it is often at the expense of the underdeveloped nations. In this process, Snyder explores a variety of interrelated social issues, specifically the relationships between inequality, corporations and gender and separately the issues of exploitation, capitalism and consumption.
Throughout Fugitive Denim, inequality is discussed as a broad concept that can be used to describe the global inequality, social structure and gender issues within a nation. On the worldwide scale, “there is no question that global inequality has been steadily rising over the last few centuries” (Conley 253). Geography is one aspect that played a role in industrializing nations and although it is not specifically addressed in the novel, geography can be seen as a reason for inequality. The particular climate of a region determined what crops could or could not be grown, which is a major factor in defining an industry. Azerbaijan is able to grow cotton, but the related industry only ever expanded enough to support harvesting cotton leaving out the other aspects involved with the production that crop. After talking with an Azeri cotton farmer, Snyder describes part of the market, The World Bank wanted Azerbaijan to sell only raw cotton and would subsidize this, but Vasif feels if the World Bank really wanted to help the country, it would give subsidies to start small factories to wave fabric or make finished garments. Ready-made fabric sells for nearly double cotton’s price on the world market (Snyder 63). Like most aspects of globalization, the different entities that make up a single nation are all interwoven. In this case, the geography defines the industry that ultimately designs the economy. The same subsidies that Vasif was describing in the quote above are a reason for major economic inequality globally. The following quote is just one specific example of how ineffective subsidies can be. In 2004, the US Government spent $264 million on cotton subsidies, and every single dollar was, according to the World Trade Organization, illegal. The vast majority of those subsidies, which were created to keep the family farm in business, went to agribusiness or corporate farms—80 percent. Tandy Ogburn of North Carolina, whom I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting, received $5.00. Tandy’s neighbor, Ronald Olive, received $17.00 (Snyder 64). The system of subsidized loans was created in the 1930’s and was designed to help support small farms and keep them functioning. However because subsidies are granted from capitalist nations that essentially run the World Trade Organization, they are the ones in control of what money goes where; Vasif was quoted saying, ‘The more finished a product the more it demands from the global market’ (Snyder 64). Because consumption-centered nations, like the United States, want to ensure a high profit margin they try to keep merchandise sale costs low. On the quest to produce such low priced goods however more developed countries outsource the production process to nations that are less developed and therefore willing to do the hard work with minimal monetary return....
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