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This book is explained in four parts. In the first part it describes about the dominance of the America, in global cotton industry for past two hundred years.
In the first chapter, the author introduces about a place Lubbock in Texas and explains its importance by saying that there is every chance that T-shirts we wear born at Lubbock. Author mentions about a cotton farmer and his wife, and how they are producing cotton in huge quantities from long time. The dominance of few nations globally in particular industries, shifted from one nation to another nation after some time period. America has dominated the cotton industry by standing first in production when compared globally.
It explains, the reason behind the success of the cotton industry is, due to exploitation of the government subsidies and it had been a disadvantage to developing nations, who are the major competitors. The author doesn't agree with the statement that U.S. is able to lead in this industry only due to subsidies and explains that adaption of production methods, marketing, technology and organizational forms to match to the supply and demands in the global market place helped to dominate. She explains that farmers in poor nations are tradition bound and lack innovation when compared to the American growers. On the other side, lack of proper institutions and governance mechanisms in the poor nations made them weak in the global competition. U.S. farmer's practices and set of institutions for the past two hundred years insulated them from various market forces. She also mentioned about few shameful things in this success like cotton slave plantation and higher subsidies.
In the second chapter, author discuses about the American cotton history. This chapter starts with, how cotton cloth and yarns had initiated industrial revolution in the 18th century by Britain. The statistics of cotton production in the world were given and in 1791 the production of America was very minute. In this, she also explained about the problems faced by the farmers with weeds and unavailability of information. It was explained that slavery helped to cultivate land in large areas. In turn, it increased the production. By 1860, majority of cotton produced in the world is through slave plantation.
She explains, huge production of cotton is not only due to save plantation but also due to incentives, monitoring and effective systems of control. To get the maximum work out of the slaves various policies like, both positive and negative incentives along with paternalism and monitoring were implemented. She also explained the reasons of why India and China lagged in the competition even though they are leading in the late 1700's. Governance seems to play a major role which is a challenging task for the developing nations. At the end of this chapter, she explains how cotton factories entered into Texas and Oklahoma. The main problem for large area cultivation seems to be unavailability of the labor and few innovative methods helped them to produce cotton in large quantities. The success of these large cotton farms was a dent for the smaller cotton farms.
In the third chapter, author comes back to the Reinsch's farm and discusses about the Lubbock, which is a cottonest city in the world. In the introduction of this chapter, author discusses about the available resources in cotton industries. She explains that the success of the growers is a result the web of institutions they were embedded in. There is a strong relation between the farmers, universities, private companies and U.S government. Other than that the farmers are well educated, all these factors along with the huge subsidies helped to have productivity. The mechanization of cotton production had taken place in four stages and the progress that was made in each and every stage was mentioned along with the statistics. Texas is way ahead of Alabama in usage of the tractor power for producing cotton.
Due to mechanization of the cultivation and technology, the productivity increased exponentially from the year 1945. She discusses about the processes that were implemented and the problems involved in the four phases. In the early 1970's new methods were followed in the harvest which eliminated riders. In fact, the waste materials and the low quality products were used for recycling which helped the growers. Coming to the marketing, the cotton in the west Texas got reputation of low quality. In 1958, media helped the farmers, how to produce longer, stronger, and better cotton. Other this, the farmers had strong political influence which enabled them to get high subsidies when compared to any other crop produced in U.S. It helped the farmers in avoiding risk from markets.
There are various laws in implementation in favor of the cotton growing farmers and she explains that it got shielded from all type of risks. Government also assists farmers in exporting the cotton. The 2002 farm bill poses a great disadvantage to the farmers in the developing nations. More subsidies of around 4 billion is greater than GNP of some of the poor nations. Author says though, low labor costs in developing countries is an advantage, they can't compete with the farmers who are having latest technology. Lack of assistance from the government is also barrier to the farmers in the developing nations.
Second part of this book discusses about the way how cotton travels from Texas to Shanghai. All the details were mentioned in three chapters.
In fourth chapter, author discusses about how cotton travels from West Texas to Shanghai. She explains that there is no similarity in the culture between two places and they have been tied up together by cotton fiber for nearly a century. China is not only the largest buyer of American Cotton but also consumes one-third of world's cotton production. On her way to 36 cotton yarn factory, she describes about the surroundings. She discusses about the yarn and moves into the Shanghai Brightness Number 3 Garment factory and explains the about the China dominance in global textile and apparent industries. She says that the surplus cheap labor helped China to dominate in this industry. The cheap T- shirts came from China are victory for corporate profits, U.S. consumers but it is a failure for humanity.
In fifth chapter, author mentioned that until 1750, there is no vast difference between China and Europe in development and china seemed to be favorable than Europe. Later, due to the industrial revolution Britain gained advantage which lead to slashing of prices on clothes. The dominance of Britain got to end by 1896 particularly in America and Europe but the loss was recovered in Asia since, there is no mechanization in the textile industry. British mills made use of children and landless laborers. She also explained how Japan, Hong Kong had dominated in the export of clothing various periods. Later, this position was taken by China due to its low labor costs.
In the introduction of the sixth chapter, author explains about the Huko system in China that was developed in 1950's. She explained, how Huko system was liberalized later and about the floating people, who contributed in the labor industry of the textile. It was mentioned that almost 40 percent among the floating people were girls and woman. She mentioned about the injustice done to the floating people in terms wages and work allotment, when compared with their urban counterparts. Woman preferred to work in industry than in farms and it liberated them from the physical and mental drudgery of farm. Most importantly woman got economic liberty and autonomy which might not be possible if they stayed back in their villages. Even though, it is a hard work for the woman over there, the choices given by their new worlds melted their passivity away.
She explains about the pitiful conditions they have been working even though the facilities over there are better than compared to farm. It was mentioned that there is need for Global Labor Standards. Many activists are against the exploitation of labor indiscriminately and protests held against those companies who are importing the products from China where children are used to work. She explains about the rules for the race, so that no one have disadvantage.
In the seventh chapter, author explains about how global apparel trade came to rule by politics. In this chapter she explains that China's imports became a threat to the American jobs and the associations those fought against imports got downsized losing hope. Due to the international politics American government is getting compromised on imposing tariffs. Most of the economists are in support of free trade but it seems to be hurting the job market, resulting in loss of thousands of jobs in short run. She discussed about some of crazy rules that were set under U.S. Caribbean trade partnership act. It seems that under this free trade act the things became more complex due to some crazy rules for imports.
In this author discusses about snarling together and how the size of the industries has impact on the policy makers. MFA was implemented through which imports were made tougher and even after that situation between 1985 and 1990, the industry seems to be in tough times, even the renewal of MFA had no effect on the survival of the industry. In 1990's the influence of U.S apparel and textile industries has declined due to internal differences. Later, International Textile and Clothing Bureau (ITCB) which is a coalition of developing countries raised their voice against quotas, as a result of which MFA was abandoned but in a delayed process.
In the Eighth chapter, author discusses that lose of jobs is not solely confined to imports but also due to the technological advancements .In fact, there is huge loss of jobs in China when compared to U.S due to the technological revolution which layed emphasis on automation. She explains that the acts that were made to protect the industry undermined the firms rather than helping the U.S firms become more competitive. She mentioned about the unintended winners due to MFA. Due to the imposition of quota through MFA the developing countries gained.
In the ninth chapter, author explains about how years of temporary protectionism comes to an end and how China takes all. As days went ahead more changes had taken place. She says that Pakistan got benefited in terms of having flexible quota against them in textile industry for helping, in war against terrorism. The influence of textile industry is getting faded gradually and at the same time retailers gained political power and how Wal-Mart is lobbying in Washington by spending huge sum of money. Mainly, quotas were imposed very heavily on the poor nations when compared to the rich nations. An important thing that was mentioned is, after removal of quota it had more effect on the poor nations. Since, China is penetrating in to all kinds of markets that were previously reserved for poor countries. China has become threat to the exports of the developing nations. Hundred associations from 47 countries signed Istanbul declaration to represent China threat at WTO.
Part four describes about the how T-shirt encounters a free market finally and it discusses about where the T-shirts go after the Salvation Army Bin and the American old T-shirts help small Entrepreneurs in clothing East Africa.
In the tenth chapter, author says that American middle class people and rich people throw their things and T-shirts after the use for few months. Even though, they are distributed at free of cost there is no one to take them. As a result, U.S exported 7 billion pounds of used clothing between 1990 and 2003 and also U.S got a market share of around 40 percent in the world. Many of the clothes were collected through The Salvation Army bins. These clothes were recycled and are sent into market once again. She explains about the T-shirts in the afterlife and almost all the used clothes are shipped to Russia, Poland, Ukraine and the poor nations in Europe which shares common climatic conditions. The statistics of used clothing were given in which the African nations dominated the ranks in importing. The way the clothes were graded was also explained.
In the eleventh chapter of this book, author discusses about how, American T-shirts are used by the small Entrepreneurs to cloth East Africa. She explains about Tanzania and the poverty conditions over there. In Tanzania Manzese market is the largest one. It is like a suburban shopping mall. She explains about Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Limited (METL) which is one of the largest private companies in Tanzania. It is illegal to import the used clothing initially. Later, once the mitumba trade wa legalized then Gulam had seen an opportunity and started doing business with American used clothes, in which he prospered. Soon the industry got caught up with few more entrepreneurs who made use of the opportuntity, as a result of that quality increased due to competition. There were barriers setup for Mitumba trade by the local textile industry and few nations imposed ban on imported clothing. It seems that Tanzanian industry has gained in textile industry after the liberalization of mitumba trade. The clothes that are donated in form of charity are making huge profits for the middleman which seems to be unfair. She also discussed about the humiliation factor for Tanzanians. She says that this industry is secured one from China since it does not have tradition of charity giving.
To conclude, this book discusses about the trade liberalization and its advantages, disadvantages for different nations and how the T-shirts travel form one nation to another nation which helps different nations in improving economy. To tell in brief author discusses briefly about the journey of T-shirt from its birth to end.