Networks of Value, Commodities, and regions: reworking divisions of labor in macro-regional economies

Publication Type: 
Volume: 
26
Number: 
1
Page Numbers: 
41-64
Month/Season: 
Published On: 
2002

The aim of this paper is to explore a theoretical framework that can assist in understanding the extent to which the increased integration of macro-regional economies (such as the European and North American) and the global economy is leading to divergence and/or convergence in the pattern of economic activity and the distribution of value-added and wealth. In particular, the paper focuses on the extent to which changing divisions of labour, the production, appropriation and allocation of value, and economic organization underpin these processes of convergence/divergence. We focus on developing an understanding of the changing divisions of labour across space in increasingly integrated macro-regional economies such as Europe and North America, and the (unequal) flows of value between places that underpin mosaics of territorial inequality. We argue that the production and flows of value associated with different forms of economic activities and commodity production and exchange in different localities provides a framework for understanding changing geographical divisions of labour. We also argue that a critical engagement with the range of work associated with analysing ‘commodity chains’ and ‘commodity networks’ provides a way into thinking about the (dis)organization of economic activity and value creation, appropriation and distribution. In particular, we argue that the focus on the commodity, while initially helpful, is misplaced because commodities embody and carry with them relations of value. Consequently, our attention should be focused on the organization of the production, appropriation and realization of value flows and the various forces that structure these processes, such as state governance, labour organization, corporate practices and so on, that are fundamental to understanding the (re)configuration of economic activity in macro-regional economies.