Globalization: A Wolf in Sheeps Clothing?

After the third “viewing” of Mike Daisey’s account of the FoxConn factories, and the blog and class discussions on the subject, I’m still having trouble on making up my mind on how I feel about everything. I feel like I see all sides of the stories: Daisey’s, Ira Glass’, the workers in the factory. Upon my first interaction with the story, I felt horrible about the working conditions for the factory workers. After listening to the Ira Glass podcast, I was mad at Daisey. I felt like he betrayed me by lying to me to make me care about his cause of informing the public on the FoxConn factory conditions. However, then I realized that by lying, he made me and the public care. Daisey’s lying resulted in a positive outcome, so should I stay so mad at him? Professor Zhu’s speech during the play added another argument to consider when discussing this topic. I found the fact that Professor Zhu didn’t find Daisey’s speech to be “the real issue,” but that other countries don’t understand how to evaluate life in China. Professor Zhu does not seem to think that the long hours of work and low pay are as big of issues as we do, because there are thousands of unemployed workers trying to get those jobs. I found the fact that Professor Zhu blamed globalization to be a very interesting take on the topic. I had not considered this stance before, because I was originally concerned about how Foxconn could get away with having those types of working conditions, and then debating whether or not Daisey lied during his story. Professor Zhu spoke about both the positives and negatives that result from globalization. I had never really thought to blame anybody other than Apple and Foxconn for the working conditions. We talked about how it would be unrealistic for workers to rise up against the company, because they need to work to survive. Now after listening to Professor Zhu’s speech, I wonder how miserable the workers really our. I don’t believe at all that the workers enjoy their work, and are very unhappy with the conditions, but perhaps they are not as upset about it as our class is. Professor Zhu spoke multiple times about how outside countries don’t understand Chinese values, and that we should not be so quick to make assumptions about the Chinese lifestyle. I think a way to get a more accurate understanding on how the Foxconn workers feel would be to have a journalist live amongst the workers and observe their everyday life for an extended period of time. This way, the journalist will be able to get a better understanding about the working conditions, how the workers feel about the conditions, and how the conditions effect the lives of the workers.

9 thoughts on “Globalization: A Wolf in Sheeps Clothing?”

  1. I agree with what you say in your first paragraph about still being not sure exactly how you feel about the whole situation. I think I have a pretty good understanding of both sides of the argument/situation, but I still have trouble giving my own opinion on it. I have flip flopped back in forth a few times, like you did, and I don’t real know how I feel about Mike Daisey. What I do think is that it is going to be difficult to incentivize Foxconn and manufacturing plants like it to take action as long as there is still a huge demand from the Chinese people for work. Therefore, any change would have to come from Apple and other American corporations who have their products manufactured overseas.


    1. I agree with your point about Foxconn not changing the factory conditions with the huge demand for work from Chinese workers. There would be no financial reason for them to spend extra money on improving working conditions, when workers are willing to work for less. I agree with you that changes would have to come from Apple, but given Apple’s cult status and how people religiously buy their product, I can’t see them changing anything about how they manufacture their products.


  2. I enjoyed reading your post because you take on a more realistic approach than I think I have been this whole time. It’s true, we don’t know what the cultural working norms in China are. Just because we don’t find them ideal doesn’t mean that in China they are seen as harsh working conditions. So why do we just jump to put blame and negative press for Apple? Is it just because we think that people should be treated better because we were raised in a country where people’s rights have always been the most valued?


    1. Thanks Emily. The Chinese working point of view was never one that we’ve discussed and one that I’d never even considered until listening to Professor Zhu’s speech. I definitely think that way we’ve been raised effects our viewpoint on the Foxconn workers. As Bucknell students, the majority of us had a privileged upbringing, and upbringing that is completely different than that of the Foxconn, and I definitely thinks that effects our opinions on the subject.


  3. Nice post Thomas! I liked how you raised the issue of how our cultural upbringing can dramatically change our viewpoint of the whole situation. This has made me very curious on how a majority of the Chinese workers in the factories actually feel about their experience at Foxconn and other large scale manufacturing facilities. I’m sure there would definitely be some disgruntled workers and some who believe that it is a great opportunity to escape poverty…but extreme points of view can be found in regards to pretty much any issue or idea.


  4. I think your post highlighted some of the same topics I touched on in my third blog- I had never really thought about the cultural context of Foxconn before making my personal judgement on the topic. Is it fair for us to pass judgements on Foxconn, and to an extent, Apple, without fully knowing what its ‘like’ to be a Foxconn employee? If having a job at Foxconn means so much to these employees, and they are willing to fight to work under these aforementioned conditions, then do we really need to fight to change the so-called ‘issue’ at hand? Though I have learned from this three-part narrative to not trust what is reported, it seems as though Foxconn workers reluctantly accept the longer hours, the harsh manual labor, because it means a great deal to them. I think its similar to early investment banking jobs. To us, a 100+ hour weeks of working 15+ hour shifts seems normal for a job of such prestige. Perhaps to an outsider, hearing of recent-college graduates working from 8AM-1AM may sound alarming and unethical. While investment banking and manual labor at Foxconn are very dissimilar, I think the idea of context raises an important parallel. We hold these investment banking jobs in a high regard just as the Chinese do for Foxconn positions. If this is their cultural norm, who are we to judge this? -Just an opinion


  5. I like how you bring up the cultural complexities at play with this case study. It’s one of the hardest things to quantify and make decisions about. My belief is that Chinese workers are living in a culture that does not prompt them to ask questions like “Is there anything you would change about your job?” or “Should I demand more pay for my work?”. It is impossible to guess what they would prefer, but I think as a country with the reputation to be a “Global-Police”, we should ask ourselves, “Is it our place and/or responsibility to bring all countries out of poverty and to spread our values in human rights?”


  6. While cultural relativity and empathy absolutely matter, I am worried that saying “oh, they value hard work there, so its no problem” it a wee bit too convenient.

    Like I wrote earlier, on Kendall’s post, why do we keep finding ourselves talking about people who talk about the workers? Where are their voices?


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