Research Handbook on Transnational Labour Law
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Research Handbook on Transnational Labour Law

Edited by Adelle Blackett and Anne Trebilcock

The editors’ substantive introduction and the specially commissioned chapters in the Handbook explore the emergence of transnational labour law as a field, along with its contested contours. The expansion of traditional legal methods, such as treaties, is juxtaposed with the proliferation of contemporary alternatives such as indicators, framework agreements and consumer-led initiatives. Key international and regional institutions are studied for their coverage of such classic topics as freedom of association, equality, and sectoral labour standard-setting, as well as for the space they provide for dialogue. The volume underscores transnational labour law’s capacity to build bridges, including on migration, climate change and development.
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Chapter 25: Transnational private labour regulation, consumer-citizenship and the consumer imaginary

Kevin Kolben


Transnational corporations’ efforts to avoid being associated with abusive labour conditions in their supply chains is a key dynamic in today’s business environment. The threat that consumers might punish bad corporate actors is a key driver of transnational private labour regulation and of various supply chain governance initiatives, and it is a powerful tool of transnational labour activist networks. The increased regulatory role of consumers that feel ethically and even politically obligated toward workers in global supply chains suggests the rise of a new form of transnational consumer-citizenship. But, there is a paradox at work here that is similar to one that has been noted in Benedict Anderson’s work on political citizenship. That is, the relationships between consumers and workers in the global supply chain are largely imagined. Transnational labour activist networks as well as companies increasingly foster and utilize this consumer imaginary by acting as intermediaries between workers and consumer-citizens. The imagined nature of these various relationships presents both opportunities and perils for evolving forms of transnational private labour governance and for the role of consumer citizens in international economic regulation.

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