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Responsibility for technology sweatshops and the politics of human rights

Zimmerman, Alexander G. (2013) Responsibility for technology sweatshops and the politics of human rights. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Since the early 1970s, political theorists have slowly moved away from meta-ethical debates about how human rights are grounded toward more pragmatic questions about who is obligated to protect them. This debate about responsibility for protecting human rights promises to address pressing questions about who must respond to the worst global injustices and why. Human rights are not particularly useful unless it is possible to specify which agents bear an obligation to protect them and how they ought to discharge this obligation. This thesis enters the responsibilities debate by addressing an important gap in the global justice literature. Too often, theories of responsibility are evaluated in abstract terms without consideration of actual instances of injustice. A closer look at specific injustices is needed to effectively evaluate whether these theoretical models are useful in addressing messy real world human rights deprivations. Without an assessment of how theoretical frameworks can motivate feasible reforms, it is unclear what practical work theories of responsibility can do. This study evaluates the frameworks offered by Thomas Pogge, David Miller, and Iris Marion Young in relation to a pressing global injustice: technology sweatshops in China. Migrant workers in technology sweatshops represent a critical test case because these workers are frequently unable to live minimally decent lives and it is not at all clear who is responsible for intervening. Each of the three frameworks is evaluated based on the plausibility of their responses. The analysis shows that neither Pogge nor Miller take the politics of human rights seriously enough. That is, they both seem to assume that a convincing ethical perspective will inevitably lead to political action. The analysis of Young shows that this assumption about the inevitability of political action is misguided, and that without the proper analytic tools, the responsibilities debate is unlikely to motivate political action.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Zimmerman, Alexander
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGoodhart, Michaelgoodhart@pitt.eduGOODHART
Committee MemberHammond, Leslielhammond@pitt.eduLHAMMOND
Committee MemberHertel,
Committee MemberLotz, Andrewanl7@pitt.eduANL7
Date: 22 May 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 November 2012
Approval Date: 22 May 2013
Submission Date: 10 December 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 100
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Political Science
David C. Frederick Honors College
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Nationalism, Cosmopolitanism, Moral Theory, Critique of Ideal Theory, Non Ideal Theory, Apple, Foxconn, Social Connection Model, Remedial Responsibility, Human Rights Politics
Date Deposited: 22 May 2013 19:47
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:08


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