An Experience of Phnom Penh in Where Sweatshops Are a Dream by Nicholas Kristof

Topics: Sweatshops

The author of “Where Sweatshops Are a Dream,” Nicholas D. Kristof, begins his column by painting a visual with words about the conditions of Phnom Penh (Cambodia’s capital). He describes Phnom Penh to be a “garbage dump;” continuing to put the reader in a setting (kairos) of a “miasma of toxic stink.” Kristof also uses a strong, credible source (ethos) like the President; to refer to the issues he has (the issues the author has) with the U.S. public believing that sweatshops overseas are Phnom Penh’s “biggest problem.

The author is trying to persuade the readers in believing that sweatshops are not a terrible option for the people in poverty stricken countries. He starts his thesis (I believe) with a strong statement at the end of the fourth paragraph stating, “…the central challenge in the poorest countries is not that sweatshops exploit too many people, but that they don’t exploit enough.” After painting a visual, putting the readers in “their shoes” (the people of Phnom Penh), and quoting Barack Obama; Kristof uses his own experiences, and writes responses upon interviewing citizens of Cambodia.

The author concentrates on the poverty surrounding Phnom Penh; finding interviewees that respond within his realm of the topic at hand, and the emotions they convey in their answers. He quotes a 19-year old woman who claims she would love to work in a factory (sweatshop), because * at least that work is in the shade.” The response of the 19-year old woman implies that the impoverished local Cambodian worker currently works in the heat outside, and would rather work in a sweatshop or a factory, because it would be a cooler environment.

Get quality help now
Writer Lyla

Proficient in: Sweatshops

5 (876)

“ Have been using her for a while and please believe when I tell you, she never fail. Thanks Writer Lyla you are indeed awesome ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

The author made two very valid points that stood out to me. He said “Sweatshops are only a symptom of poverty, not a cause,” and he also said toward the end of his article that “The best way to help people in the poorest countries isn’t to campaign against sweatshops but to promote manufacturing there.” I think that Kristof uses a lot of emotion within his descriptive writing. When he quotes his interviewees, he throws in a description in between what she says, to amplify her life situation of digging around a dump to find plastic for five cents; this is impacting. The author used a lot of technique from his own experiences also, which makes me as a reader, believe in his argument more so than if he didn’t really see the things he described. I believe his intent was to bring a more open-minded light to the situation that closing down sweatshops will not help the countries they exist in, but only create less jobs and opportunities to an already poverty stricken place.

Not ever really thinking about this topic from this point of view, I can understand why this is not a ridiculous argument, but a valid one. As far as weaknesses in this article go, I didn’t particularly like that at the end of his piece the author says “Look, I know that Americans have a hard time accepting that sweatshops can help people.” I think that this implies that his argument is less valid, because he is admitting that people do not see it “his way,” when everything before that part, is so strongly put in his perspective, from his side. I also think that ending with a quote to wrap up your argumentative article is sometimes effective if it leaves the reader thinking, and re-reading; however, I don’t think his ending was any different than the middle of his piece when he interviewed poor citizens on their views of sweatshops. I thought another weak point was his lack of use of facts to back up his argument. I didn’t see any numbers or statistics of how many people are not working in sweatshops in Cambodia, who want to work in one. I didn’t see any numbers in this article in relation to how many people are already in sweatshops in Cambodia, and like being there.

In fact, I don’t see any numbers that back up his argument in stating that shutting down sweatshops would end opportunities for already poverty stricken workers. People like some facts (logos), and big numbers, and without them, I don’t feel as comfortable completely agreeing with his argument that we shouldn’t shut down sweatshops. Some of his paper is redundant, and I can’t quite tell if it’s to really reiterate his point, or if it’s because he thought it would be effective. Overall, a very different and eye-opening point of view was relayed here. I believe that most people would say “Sweatshops are bad,” and agree with shutting them down. Now, because I have read this, I believe that there’s truly an argument to everything, and always a different “side.” This was an interesting read.

Cite this page

An Experience of Phnom Penh in Where Sweatshops Are a Dream by Nicholas Kristof. (2023, May 16). Retrieved from

Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7