Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden Socio-legal Series Lecture

Rules without Rights: Land, Labor, and Private Authority in the Global Economy

Wednesday 28 November 2018
Old Observatory
Sterrenwachtlaan 11
2311 GW Leiden
B 006

Activists have exposed startling forms of labor exploitation and environmental degradation in global industries, leading many large retailers and brands to adopt standards for fairness and sustainability in their supply chains. For many scholars and practitioners, this kind of private regulation and global standard-setting can provide an alternative to regulation by territorially-bound, gridlocked, or incapacitated nation states, potentially improving environments and working conditions around the world and protecting the rights of exploited workers, impoverished farmers, and marginalized communities. But can private, voluntary rules actually create meaningful forms of regulation? Are forests and factories around the world actually being made into sustainable ecosystems and decent workplaces? Can global norms remake local orders?

To shed new light on these questions, Tim Bartley has developed a comparative account of land and labor in democratic and authoritarian settings. Specifically, his research has examined sustainable forestry and fair labor standards as implemented in Indonesia and China. In this presentation, he will show (1) why private regulation so often fails when applied to land and labor, (2) how domestic governance constrains and reconfigures transnational rules, and (3) how land and labor are different as objects of global regulation, despite their baseline similarity as “fictitious commodities.”

Tim Bartley is Professor of Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis. His research examines transnational governance, regulation, organizations, social movements, often with a focus on labor, environment, or a comparison of the two. His recent book, Rules without Rights: Land, Labor, and Private Authority in the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2018), compares sustainability and labor standards in Indonesia and China. Other recent work includes an article on “Transnational Corporations and Global Governance” in the Annual Review of Sociology and a new project on “big data” and predictive analytics in the private sector in the U.S. He received his PhD from the University of Arizona and held faculty positions at Indiana University and Ohio State University before moving to Washington University in St. Louis in 2017. He is a former co-editor of Regulation & Governance and the editor of a forthcoming volume of Research in Political Sociology on “The Politics of Land.”

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