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Wednesday, December 13, 2017
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Global production networks: What has labour got to do with it?
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Global production networks: What has labour got to do with it?

11 pages · 2.57 EUR
(September 2016)

 
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Introduction:

It is generally well-acknowledged that the global capitalist system has undergone a significant reconfiguration in its spatial organization of production in almost every sector, particularly in manufacturing and services, in the last few decades. Much talked about feature of this configuration is the "transnationalisation" of economic activities or the growing salience of the GPNs. The de-centring of production under neo-liberal capitalism is characterised by a shift of production from advanced capitalist countries to a handful of developing countries where metropolitan capital has strengthened its presence to take advantage of, inter alia, relatively inexpensive labour and raw materials as well as to tap the markets. Thus, in a whole range of activities, the value chains underlying a manufactured good (or service) for final consumption may well criss-cross different corners of the globe before it is assembled together (e.g., automobiles, electronic items, garments, shoes etc). With the powerful ascendency of the GPNs in the era of neo-liberal globalization, the "Fordist" production regime, that dominated manufacturing till about half a century ago, has now taken a back seat. Apart from striking debates regarding the implications for labour due to the ascendancy of GPNs, a major, and again controversial, theme with respect to the GPNs has been about its conceptual location. On both these there is considerable contestation in the existing literature, analytically as well as empirically. To flag just one issue: some have argued that the post-Fordist regime is clearly a distinct advance, with features such as workplace participation, shop floor democracy, and re-skilling, over the 'despotic control and deskilling of workers' associated with the "Fordist-Taylorist" regime (a claim advanced by Harry Braverman in his iconic classic Labour and Monopoly Capital (Braverman 1974)); the counter argument is that post-Fordist GPNs have given a massive push to informalisation of workers and a further loss of control over the labour process by the working classes. In fact on almost every feature associated with this presumed transition from Fordist-Taylorist to the GPN regime there are major debates. It is not my objective to get into an adequate consideration of all the relevant issues. The purpose of this paper is limited specifically to two issues. First, in Section 2, it raises some concerns regarding the conceptual underpinnings of the GPN/GVC framework itself. Second, in Section 3, it tries to engage with a couple of arguments relating to the pathways with respect to the implications for labour. Section 4 concludes the paper.


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Prof. Dr. Praveen Jha
Praveen Jha

Professor of Economics with the School of Social Sciences Jawaharlal Nehru University. Currently he is also a Visiting Professor at Rhodes University, South Africa and Sam Moyo African Institute of Agrarian Studies, Zimbabwe. His main area of work is political economy of development with special focus on labour and agriculture.