Garment manufacturing can be singled out for its pivotal role in the economic development of countries across the globe during different periods in world history. Especially since the 1970s, this industry has been crucial in ushering in the era of industrialization in Asia and Africa. The global enactment of a series of American policies on the international trade of clothing, including the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA), have given shape to a postcolonial landscape of industrial spectacle which is inextricably intertwined with the webs of social transformation and political regime change. This book studies the relationship between the turmoil of the garment industry and the People’s War in Nepal. It revisits how the expiry of the MFA led to a major politico–economic reshuffling in Nepal, and examines the formation of a new industrial working class thereafter. Resisting the abstractism of aid policy, it proposes a new lens for examining the garment industry’s embeddedness in local and global politics during a very long period of national transition.
Death of an Industry is an outcome of multi-sited research. Drawing on ethnographic and policy research, it captures the tensions between subaltern workers and disillusioned capitalists, as well as the legal frameworks of the global trade diplomacy and aid advisory bodies which engineered the readymade garment industry in Nepal under a depoliticized framework of market competitiveness. It foregrounds the stories of the factory owners and workers, for whom the rhetoric of export competitiveness involving garment manufacturing initially brought a new way of earning a living and then abruptly took it away.
This monograph explains the anti-politics of export competitiveness which made the wave of industrial destruction a necessary (yet painful) chapter for capitalism and development to prevail. It shows how the class activists that emerged from the crumbling empire of garment manufacturing built a resistance that led to a regime change and eventually ended monarchy in Nepal.