On the Origns of Corporate Power in Global Production Networks: Theorizing Developmental Outcomes in Networked Relationships

Authors: Nathan Stewart*, University of Toronto
Topics: Economic Geography, Development, Geographic Theory
Keywords: Global Production Networks, Strategic Coupling, Regional Development, Power, Monopoly Capitalism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Edgewood AB, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Within GPN theory, the concept of strategic coupling – the process through which lead firms ‘link-up’ with spatially disparate supplier firms – acts as the theoretical mechanism through which GPN relationships are created. According to theory, strategic coupling can yield numerous benefits to partner firms including achieving greater economies of scale/scope, enhancing value creation and capture, and stimulating innovation and industrial upgrading. Consequently, GPN participation represents a potentially viable strategy for policy makers interested in encouraging regional development. However, scholars such as Coe and Hess (2011), MacKinnon (2012), and Yeung (2015) recognize that while positive developmental outcomes have accrued in certain circumstances, this is far from guaranteed. Rather, these scholars note that GPN participation is spatially and temporally contingent, and that there exists a ‘dark side’ to strategic coupling which can result in a variety of negative developmental outcomes. According to Yeung (2015), these negative outcomes can often be attributed to asymmetrical power relations between GPN actors and regional institutions which manifest during processes of bargaining and cooperation. However, aside from the recognition that power within GPNs is derived from a set of relational determinants, deeper conceptualizations of the origins of power within GPNs remain undertheorized. Therefore, in order to better understand the ‘dark side’ of strategic coupling, this paper provides a conceptual basis for theorizing the origins of power within GPNs by synthesizing insights derived from the theory of monopoly capitalism with empirical analyses of networked power-relations offered by authors such as Mahutga (2014) and Glückler and Panitz (2016).

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