The Cult of Impersonality


As multinationals go, Foxconn – a Taiwan based multinational corporation and the world’s largest electronics contractor, best known as the manufacturer of Apple related products– has been the focus of a somewhat unwanted worldwide attention when it was reported that between 2010 and 2011 a series of suicides took place at a number of its factories in China as a result of poor working conditions and low pay. Unsurprisingly, the subsequent public backlash, legal disputes over working conditions and Foxconn’s admission of violating labour rights have all contributed to the inevitable changes in Chinese labour laws. It would be quick to label this a victory for Chinese labourers but I can’t help but think Foxconn admitting to labour violations as anything but a PR ploy. This is probably just me being cynical but perhaps my apprehension is justified by recent reports suggesting Foxconn has plans to relocate its factories to Indonesia and the US citing rising manufacturing costs and labour unrest in China as reason. Globalized economic frameworks set by the WTO ensure multinationals enjoy unrestricted geographical flexibility; allowing them to relocate to other countries without much difficulty. Perhaps the changes in labour rights provides some measure of justice for the workers but once the initial euphoria fades away and the sobering facts of our economic reality are displayed I can’t help but feel sorry for the vulnerable workers – who dependent on multinationals as their only source to an income – will suffer.

Such tales invariably have a profound effect on my conscience which raises sentimental thoughts in which I re-evaluate my own existence – how can I make a difference to satisfy my own moral principles? Such sentimentalities however are too superficial to mean anything – after all this is the consequence of the economic reality we find ourselves. In truth factories are a human product, created to satisfy our own material needs, yet its fodder is human flesh in which it devours in its insatiable desire to maximize profit. It is no wonder then that Foxconn factories have manifest into a sort of 21st century Le  Voreux; the physical embodiment of our indifference to humanity in favour of commodity production. Regrettably, our consumer culture plays an indirect role in regards to the working environments characteristic of production factories. It is for this reason, I consider factory workers in China as losers in this global political economy.

  Mohamed Hussein


2 thoughts on “The Cult of Impersonality

  1. Pehaps factory workers the world over feel the same way????? Its just fortunate here that anti-depressants and welfare are available as a temporary stop gap to prevent suicide.
    Zoe Laker

  2. I agree with you, relocating their factories must be Foxconn’s cunning way of diverting the world’s attention. The issue of large multinationals exploiting these helpless, vulnerable people who take jobs even of the worst working conditions, cannot be overlooked simply because they have moved onto a different country to find a different set of vulnerable people.
    AND despite us all being aware of these situations, we continue to buy Apple’s products. Companies like these feed off needy, ever-demanding humans like us, who ultimately, FURTHER deprive these helpless workers of any solution at all.
    But then again, I highly doubt that just because I as an individual refuse to buy an iPhone, the company will suddenly decide to become more ethical with their worker rights.
    This makes both us, the privileged who can afford to buy and iPhone, as well as them, the helpless workers who have to slave away to produce these iPhones, quite big losers.
    You are not the only one with a cynical view.
    Veera Lamichhane

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