Challenging Governance in Global Commodity Chains: The Case of Transnational Activist Campaigns for Better Work Conditions

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The coordination or ‘functional integration’ of complementary activities across locations constitutes a distinctive feature of globalization in contemporary capitalism (Dicken 1998). In industries such as apparel, electronics and automobiles, it has led to the emergence of ‘Global Commodity Chains’ (GCCs) governed by large lead firms that retain direct control over marketing and design activities in Northern markets while arranging for the manufacture of their products in complex transnational networks spanning Southern countries. Although mainstream economists continue to think of globalization in terms of international competition, seeing the surge of manufacturing imports in mature markets as resulting from the superior cost advantage of Southern producers, a GCC perspective emphasizes that the globalization of production has been driven primarily by large firms in the North taking advantage of information and communication technologies, transport deregulation, trade liberalization, and an abundant labour supply in the South to reorganize production across countries and world macroregions in order to lower cost, increase flexibility, and build up scale (Gereffi 1994).