Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Alex Rajczi

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Rights Information

© 2014 Clark J. Kissiah


Sweatshop labor has been condemned by scholars, activists, students and consumers in more developed countries on charges of wrongful exploitation, and a failure to respect the dignity, and basic needs of sweatshop workers. This paper surveys charges against sweatshop labor, and some of the more influential arguments for, and against, rectifying the background structural injustices that perpetuate it. I argue that in certain sweatshop cases, compensating workers below a prima facie morally acceptable level can be most successful in striving towards the duty of beneficence that employers owe to their employees. Therefore, we ought to pursue utility-maximizing acts over others in better alignment with a deontic duty to compensate employees at a certain level. I eventually conclude that this debate is a paradigm example of deontological versus utilitarian moral judgments. Sometimes, utility maximizing acts are morally impermissible. Sometimes, adhering to deontic duties instead of committing a wrong to produce a right is morally required. In the circumstances that I describe, the morally right acts ought to be those that are most successful in maximizing overall utility for the most number of people. This responsibility coincides with acts that may not compensate workers at a prima facie morally acceptable level, but incidentally maximize overall utility, welfare and autonomy for some of the world’s most marginalized and impoverished people.