Human Arenas

pp 1–16 | Cite as

Life on the Edge: Can Social Economy Rescue the Perishing?

  • Sam SarpongEmail author
Arena of Making


Business organisations are being increasingly asked to provide innovative solutions to deep-seated problems of human misery even as economic theory instructs managers to focus on maximising their shareholders’ wealth. Depicting the hold that economics has on how the relationship between the firm and society is conceived, this paper attempts to provide a conceptualisation of the social economy approach and what it entails. It assesses how social economy has, thus, responded to this tension over corporate involvement in the wider social life by using its involvement in the apparel sector as an example. It concludes that social economy has assumed a universality, which, in the main, has proved worthy of note, in that, it has been able to develop a path, that is both global, and which is based upon solidarity, necessitating the concept to be embraced in the light of its importance in humanising economic initiatives and the promotion of social solidarity.


Apparel industry Globalisation International retailers Morals Social economy Solidarity Outsourcing 



  1. Abreu, M. C. S. (2015). Perspectives, drivers and a roadmap for CSR in the textile and clothing industry. In S. S. Muthu (Ed.), Roadmap to sustainable textiles and clothing: regulatory aspects and sustainability standards of textiles and the clothing supply chain (pp. 1–21). Singapore: Springer.Google Scholar
  2. Amin, A., Cameron, A., & Hudson, R. (2003). The alterity of the social economy. In R. Lee, A. L. Leyshon, & C. Williams (Eds.), Alternative economic spaces (pp. 27–54). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Appelbaum, R., & Dreier, P. (2001). The campus anti-sweatshop movement. In T. L. Beauchamp & N. E. Bowie (Eds.), Ethical theory and business (6th ed., pp. 586–593). Trenton: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  4. Barrientos, S. (2000). Globalisation and ethical trade: assessing the implications for development. Journal of International Development, 12, 559–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bartley, T. (2007). Institutional emergence in an era of globalization: the rise of transnational private regulation of labour and environmental conditions. American Journal of Sociology, 113(2), 297–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bartley, T. (2018). Rules without rights: land, labour and private authority in the global economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bartley, T., & Child, C. (2014). Shaming the corporation: the sociological production of targets and the anti-sweatshop movement. American Sociology Review, 79, 653–679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bekkers, R. and Wiepking, P. (2007) ‘Generosity and philanthropy: a literature review,’ SSRN WP series No. 1015507.Google Scholar
  9. Bouchard, M. J., Leblanc, J. and Michaud, V. (2005) ‘Towards an evaluation framework for the social economy: typologies and effects,’ (Accessed 20 April 2019).
  10. Bucek, J., & Smith, B. (2000). New approaches to local democracy: direct democracy, participation and the “third sector”. Environment and Planning C, 18, 3–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. BSR (2017) ‘Empowering female workers in the apparel industry three areas for business action,’ June (Accessed 12 April 2019).
  12. Caroll, A. B., & Shabana, K. M. (2010). The business case for corporate social responsibility: a review of concepts, research and practice. International Journal of Management Reviews, 12(1), 85–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carrigan, T. (2014) ‘Good citizens’: corporate social responsibility in Africa,’ Governance and APRM Programme, SAIIA Policy Briefing 103. (Accessed 12 March, 2019).
  14. Chang, D. (2009). Informalising labour in Asia’s global factory. Journal of Contemporary Asia, 39(2), 161–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. CHRIO (2017) ‘Call for action to instil a fully participatory democracy, civil, human and fundamental rights in Bangladesh,’ 6 May, Press Release, Available: pressreleaseforbanglades.pdf. (Accessed 11 May 2019).
  16. Cojocaru, S., & Sfetcu, L. (2013). Partnerships in social economy. Procedia - social and behavioural sciences, 92, 197–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Davies, M. (2013) ‘Can Bangladesh clothing factory disasters be prevented?’ BBC news, Available: (Accessed 13 May 2019).
  18. Dugger, W. M. (1977). Perspectives on the nature of social economics. Review of Social Economy, 35(3), 299–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dolgui, A., & Proth, J. (2013). Outsourcing: definitions and analysis. International Journal of Production Research, 51(23/24), 6769–6777.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Evans, B. A. (2015). Accord on fire and building safety in Bangladesh: an international response to Bangladesh labour conditions,’ North Carolina. Journal of International Law and Commercial. Regulation., 40(2), 597–627.Google Scholar
  21. Evans, D. (2016) ‘Is my NGO having a positive impact?’ World Bank blogs, Available: (Accessed 20 December 2019).
  22. European Union (2013) Social economy and social entrepreneurship, Social Europe guide, Volume 4, Luxembourg: European Union.Google Scholar
  23. Ferrell, O. C., Fraedrich, J., & Ferrell, L. (2005). Business ethics. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  24. Fransen, L. (2011) Corporate social responsibility and global labour standards: firms and activists in the making of private regulation, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. Fransen, L., & Burgoon, B. (2014). Privatizing or socializing corporate responsibility: business participation in voluntary programs. Business & Society, 53(4), 583–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gereffi, G. and Frederick, S. (2010) The global apparel value chain, trade and the crisis: challenges and opportunities for developing countries, Policy Research WP 5281, The World Bank Development Research Group Trade and Integration Team, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  27. Giddens, A. (1990). The consequences of modernity. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Gillen, M. (2000). The apparel industry partnership’s free labour association: a solution to the overseas sweatshop problem or the emperor’s new clothes? Journal of International Law and Politics, 32, 1059–1118.Google Scholar
  29. Ginzburg, C. (1994). Killing a Chinese Mandarin: the moral implications of distance. New Left Review, 208, 107–120.Google Scholar
  30. Graylin, W. (1976). Caring. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  31. Held, D., McGrew, A., Goldbatt, D., & Perraton, J. (1999). Contents and introduction. In Global transformations: politics, economics and culture (pp. 1–31). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. ILO (2015) Insights into the working conditions in India’s garment industry, Geneva: ILO.Google Scholar
  33. Joarder, M. A. M., Hossain, A. K. M., & Hakim, M. M. (2010). Post-MFA performance of Bangladesh apparel sector. International Review of Business Research Papers, 6(4), 134–144.Google Scholar
  34. Jouen, M. (2000) ‘European Union action to promote local employment initiatives’, research paper in the series European Problems. Paris, Groupement d’Études et de Recherches Notre Europe, (Accessed 9 May 2019).
  35. Kabeer, N. (2012) ‘Women’s economic empowerment and inclusive growth: labour markets and enterprise development,’ UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Available: (Accessed 20 April 2019).
  36. Leviten-Reid, E. and Torjman, S. (2006) Evaluation framework for federal investment in the social economy: a discussion paper, The Caledon Institute of Social Policy,;jsessionid=15BB7B468F91153182FE9C77EDDD2795?doi= (Accessed 21 March 2019).
  37. Lund-Thomsen, P., & Coe, N. M. (2015). Corporate social responsibility and labour agency: the case of Nike in Pakistan. Journal of Economic Geography, 15(2), 275–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mayer, F. and Pickles, J. (2011) ‘Re-embedding governance: global apparel value chains and decent work, capturing the gains,’ Working Paper, 2010/01: University of Manchester.Google Scholar
  39. Marsella, A. (2012) Psychology and Globalization: Understanding a Complex Relationship, Journal of Social Issues, 68(3), 454–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McAteer, O. (2015) ‘The Bangladeshi sweatshop children paid 20p a day to make your jeans,’ Metro, 1 December, Available: (accesses10April 2019).
  41. McMurtry, J. J. (2009). Introducing the social economy in theory and practice. In J. J. McMurtry (Ed.), Living economics: Canadian perspectives on the social economy, co-operatives, and community economic development (pp. 1–35). Emond Montgomery Publications.Google Scholar
  42. Meldrum, B., Read, P. and Harrison, C. (2017) A guide to measuring social impact, Social Impact Traker.Google Scholar
  43. Melluish, S. (2014). Globalization, culture and psychology. Journal of International Review of Psychiatry, 26(5), 538–543.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Molloy, A., McFeely, C., & Connolly, E. (1999). Building a social economy for the new millennium. Derry: Guildhall Press/NICDA.Google Scholar
  45. Montopoli, B. (2013) Bangladesh, factory disaster. How culpable are western companies’, CBS News, April 26, 162-57581673bangladesh-factory disaster-how-culpable-are-western-countries/ (Accessed 11 April 2019).
  46. Morehouse, J.E. and Cardoso (2011) Consumer product fraud – how to stop the fraud now, Quarter 2, (Accessed 7 May 2019).
  47. Moulaert, F., & Ailenei, O. (2005). Social economy, third sector and solidarity relations: a conceptual synthesis from history to present. Urban Studies, 42(11), 2037–2053.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Moulaert, F., & Nussbaumer, J. (2005). Defining the social economy and its governance at the neighbourhood level: a methodological reflection. Urban Studies, 42, 2071–2088.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Neamtam, N (2002) ‘The social and solidarity economy: towards an alternative globalisation,’ Citizenship and Globalisation: Exploring Participation and Democracy in a Global Context, Carold Institute for the Advancement of Citizenship in Social Change, Vancouver, June 14–16.Google Scholar
  50. O’Boyle, E. J. (2005). Homo socio-economicus: foundational to social economics and the social economy. Review of Social Economy, 63(3), 483–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Parker, L., & Maher, S. (2012). Hidden people: workers in the garment supply chain. In S. Black (Ed.), The Sustainable Fashion Handbook (pp. 140–145). London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.Google Scholar
  52. Pearce, J. (1999) Epose regional report- community business Scotland network, Edinburgh: Princes House, Available: (Accessed 6 April 2019).
  53. Peterson, T. M., Murdie, A., & Asal, V. (2016). Human rights, NGO shaming the exports of abusive states. British Journal of Political Science, 48(3), 767–786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Perry, P., & Towers, N. (2013). Conceptual framework development for CSR implementation in fashion supply chain. International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management, 43(5/6), 478–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Porter, M. E., & Kramer, M. R. (2011). Creating shared value. Harvard Business Review, 89(1–2), 62–77.Google Scholar
  56. Ramaswamy, K. V., & Gereffi, G. (2000) India’s apparel exports: the challenge of global markets, The Developing Economies, 38(2): 186–210.Google Scholar
  57. Restaki, R. (2006) ‘Defining the social economy - the BC context,’ Prepared for the BC Social Economy Roundtable, British Columbia Cooperative Association, Available: (Accessed 21 April 2019).
  58. Restakis, J. and Mendell, M. (2014) ‘Public policy for a social economy,’ Flok Society, Available: (Accessed 21 April 2019).
  59. Retolaza, J. L., & San-Jose, L. (2011). The social economy and the stakeholder theory – an integrative framework for the socialisation of capital. CIRIEC- Espana, Revista de Economia Publica, Social y Cooperativa, Special issue, 73, 193–211.Google Scholar
  60. Rosen, E. (2002). Making sweatshops: the globalisation of the US apparel industry. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  61. Saini, M. (2014). The accord and alliance in progress in Bangladesh. Women’s Wear Daily, 208(131), 7–1.Google Scholar
  62. Salzinger, L. (2003). Gender in production. Berkley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  63. Sarpong, S. (2018). Sweatshops and a duty of care: to what extent? The case of Bangladesh. In S. Seifi & D. Crowther (Eds.), Stakeholders, governance and Responsibility, Developments in corporate governance and responsibility (Vol. 14). Bingley: Emerald Publishing.Google Scholar
  64. Sayer, A. (2000). Moral economy and political economy. Studies in Political Economy, 61, 79–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Singer, P. (2001). Rich and poor. In T. L. Beauchamp & N. E. Bowie (Eds.), Ethical theory and business (6th ed., pp. 661–667). Trenton: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  66. Slote, M. (2007). The ethics of care and empathy. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. TIESS Canada (2019) Montreal declaration on evaluation and social impact measurement, Available: ().
  68. Tremblay, C. (2009) ‘Advancing the social economy for socio-economic development: international perspectives,’ Public Policy Paper Series, September 1, Canadian Social Economy Research Partnerships and Public Policy Facilitating Committee of the Canadian Social Economy Hub.Google Scholar
  69. Waters, W. R. (1988). Social economics: a solidarist perspective. Review of Social Economy, 46(2), 113–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Werker, E., & Ahmed, F. (2008). What do NGOs do? Journal of Economic Perspectives, 22(2), 73–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Westlund, H. (2003). Social economy and employment - the case of Sweden. Review of Social Economy, 61(2), 163–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Wills, J. (2009). Subcontracted employment and its challenge to labour. Labour Studies Journal, 34, 441–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Zu, L. (2009). Corporate social responsibility, corporate restructuring and firm’s performance: empirical evidence from Chinese enterprises. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Xiamen University MalaysiaSepangMalaysia

Personalised recommendations