How brutal would YOUR sweatshop be?

business_ethics_highlights_2This item is about a bit of participatory theatre that has audience members take on the role of sweatshop mavens. The result is surprising (or perhaps not, for those of us who know about the Stanford Prison Experiment, and its lessons about role-playing and the ability of context to warp moral sensibilities.) >>>

LINK: How to turn a liberal hipster into a capitalist tyrant in one evening

The choices were stark: sack a third of our workforce or cut their wages by a third. After a short board meeting we cut their wages, assured they would survive and that, with a bit of cajoling, they would return to our sweatshop in Shenzhen after their two-week break.

But that was only the start. In Zoe Svendsen’s play World Factory…the audience becomes the cast….

Note that the explanation offered by the writer is incomplete, and perhaps misleading. Why do people act badly when pretending to run a sweatshop. Paul Mason says that it’s because “capitalism subjects us to economic rationality”. That’s true, but misleading. It’s not just capitalis that does that. After all, the manager of a factory in communist Russia surely had certain pressures exerted upon him, certain demands for productivity, and those pressures and demands were certainly capable of resulting in something very far from a worker’s paradise.

What do you think?


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