The 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, was the most deadly disaster in garment manufacturing history, with at least 1,134 people killed and hundreds injured. In 2015, injured workers and the families of those killed received compensation from global apparel brands through a US$30 million voluntary initiative known as the Rana Plaza Arrangement. Overseen by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Rana Plaza Arrangement awarded payments to survivors using a pricing formula developed by a diverse team of ‘stakeholders’ that included labour groups, multinational apparel companies, representatives of the Bangladesh government and local employers, and ILO actuaries. This paper draws from anthropological scholarship on the ‘just price’ to explore how a formula for pricing death and injury became both the means and form of a fragile political settlement in the wake of a shocking and widely publicised industrial disaster. By unpacking the complicated ‘ethics of a formula’ (Ballestero, 2015), I demonstrate how the project of creating a just price involves not two sets of values (ethical and financial) but rather multiple, competing values. This paper argues for recognition of the persistence and power of these competing values, showing how they variously strengthen and undermine the claim that justice was served by the Rana Plaza Arrangement. This analysis reveals the deficiencies of counterposing ‘morality’ and ‘economy’ in the study of price by reflecting upon all elements of price as situated within political economy and history.
Funding for this research was provided by the University of Sussex. The author would like to thank Peter Luetchford and Giovanni Orlando for the invitation to contribute an article to this special issue, as well as the anonymous reviewers for their critical feedback. Thanks also to Peggy Froerer and the participants in the Brunel University Autumn Anthropology Seminars for a vibrant discussion of this work.
Prentice, R. (2019), "Just Compensation? The Price of Death and Injury after the Rana Plaza Garment Factory Collapse", The Politics and Ethics of the Just Price (Research in Economic Anthropology, Vol. 39), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 157-178. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0190-128120190000039008
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