The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy


The unequal distribution of labor and the unethicality of the working conditions in the realities of the contemporary economy is a significant issue for numerous people worldwide. As the global population continues to grow, the demand for textile products considerably increases, resulting in elevated pressure on the industry’s workers. However, in The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Explains the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade, Pietra Rivoli excellently demonstrates the negative consequences of the global economic dynamics. The author highlights how the effects of globalization, cotton production’s unethicality, and the textile industry’s expansion have impacted the clothing manufacturers’ employees and led to severe complications in their professional standing. Although connected trade and the accessibility of various clothing is a tremendous opportunity for individuals from developed countries, the examination of intricacies behind textile production shows that cotton factories’ laborers suffer from severely unethical behavior (Rivoli 51). This paper reviews The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Explains the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade, discussing globalization, cotton production’s unethicality, and the textile industry’s power.

The Impact of Globalization on Textile Manufacturing

In Rivoli’s work, significant attention is given to the phenomenon of globalization and its connection to the current shape of the textile industry. The author suggests that the interdependence of international trade has become of remarkable concern in the past years, leading to tremendous disparities between the well-developed and less-developed countries (Rivoli 76). As textile manufacturing became globalized, allowing all nations to participate in the trade, the disparities between production capacities emerged, highlighting how the manufacturing processes in poorer countries differ from the standards of advanced states. Rivoli argues that such disbalance contributed to the worsening of the working conditions in countries with high population numbers, where cheap labor allowed textile companies to usurp this opportunity for their own gain (Rivoli 93). From this perspective, while well-developed nations can produce high-quality clothing, countries with cheaper labor rates may manufacture low-quality items using fewer resources, which is beneficial for textile corporations in the long term.

The Unethical Behavior of Cotton and Textile Enterprises

The textile industry heavily relies on cotton, which is the primary material used in clothing production. In this regard, the companies that fabricate and distribute textiles are forced to seek the cheapest sources of cotton for their businesses (Rivoli 5). Furthermore, the cotton manufacturing entities must ensure that high volumes of this material are always available for purchase and shipping (Rivoli 5). In the book discussed, Rivoli demonstrates how such an incredible demand for cotton originated the emergence of unethical workforce management practices, commonly implemented in Mexico and China due to their elevated efficiency (Rivoli 143). Through a historical examination of the cotton industry’s development, the author further clarifies how this process influenced the current state of the textile market and the working conditions present in a modern-day cotton production environment.

The Expansion of the Textile Industry and Its Antecedents

Considering the importance of clothing for the world’s population, the textile industry remains a crucial sector in the global economy. According to Rivoli, the beneficial positioning of this field in the current environment can be partially attributed to the enterprises’ avoidance of the free market (Rivoli 215). While the free market strategy could have promoted the well-being of the textile industry’s workers, its introduction could also have diminished the cotton and textile companies’ profits. As these enterprises’ outputs are highly significant for their countries’ economic success, several governments throughout the world have intervened in the clothing production processes and created legislations to improve its turnover (Rivoli 215). Rivoli further claims that such actions have assisted the textile industry’s growth and led to increased economic benefits for the main exporters of cotton (Rivoli 215). Nevertheless, the author also emphasizes that this expansion resulted in millions of workers being exploited by textile and cotton corporations. Therefore, Rivoli concludes that overcoming the highlighted ethical complications would require tremendous input from the world’s governments and textile enterprises.


To conclude, the themes of globalization, cotton production’s unethicality, and the textile industry’s growth were discussed in this paper as presented by Pietra Rivoli in The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy. It is evident that the advantageous contemporary standing of textile companies relies on the interconnectedness of international trade and unethical corporate behavior, the core features that allowed cotton manufacturing to prosper on the global market. As such, it is suggested that globalization can be both a prominent opportunity and a phenomenon that reveals the tremendous production disparity between the first-world and third-world countries. Furthermore, the historical emergence of the cotton industry and the current immoral practices implemented by large-scale corporations are also prominent factors that led to this economic sector’s affluence. Finally, Rivoli claims that the textile industry’s development, although based on several functional elements, was most remarkably prompted by the avoidance of free market and governmental support. Therefore, it would be necessary to address the mentioned aspects to battle the negative consequences of globalization and the textile industry’s influence.

Work Cited

Rivoli, Pietra. The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade. Wiley, 2005.

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