Labour and global production: the (mis)combination of workers and theories of global production networks

Authors: Tom Barratt*, Edith Cowan University, Susan McGrath-Champ, The University of Sydney, Adrian Smith, Queen Mary University of London
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: labor, Global Production Networks, workers, social reproduction,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Hampton Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The necessity of labour in production processes has meant that for decades scholars have considered the position of labour within increasingly global (and globalised) production processes. This creates fertile ground for understanding labour’s position in Global Production Networks and therefore the role and position of labour within capitalism and economic space more broadly. Existing approaches in economic geography tend to see questions of labour as being resolved at the firm level or as ‘context’ to the real business of production. Meanwhile those who invoke GPNs to examine questions of labour often use GPNs as ‘placeholder context’ for the particular labour issue they examine without examining labour’s role in shaping the dynamics of particular GPNs. We move beyond these limited conceptualisations, examining labour’s position within GPNs by considering the dialectical manner in which labour is incorporated into GPNs as well as how GPNs are embedded in particular labour regimes. These processes have material consequences for the production and realisation of value. By accepting the messy, place-time sensitive realities of life inside and outside of both sites of production and of GPNs, we examine how labour meets and shapes GPN requirements, the tendency towards change in these arrangements and particularly how non-unionised labour underpins GPN activity. This shows how labour influences and reacts to the requirements of GPNs, how those requirements are resisted, acquiesced to or accepted by workers and workforces, and how the ways labour is embedded in particular places shape and are shaped by GPNs in which workers work.

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