Table of Contents

Handbook of the International Political Economy of Production

Handbook of the International Political Economy of Production

Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series

Edited by Kees van der Pijl

This Handbook provides a state-of-the-art overview of the changing world of global production. Chapters cover the geography of why and where jobs are moving in both manufacturing and services. The authors discuss topics relating to the human and natural basis on which production rests, from the consequences of exploitation and marginalization on body and mind, to sex work, biotechnology, and the prospects for ecological re-balancing. This Handbook will appeal to academics at all levels interested in political economy, international studies and politics, as well as trade unionists and NGO activists.

Chapter 6: The grapes of wrath: social upgrading and class struggles in global value chains

Benjamin Selwyn

Subjects: economics and finance, political economy, politics and public policy, political economy, social policy and sociology, labour policy


Over the last three decades there has been an enormous expansion of the global labouring class – from 1.1 billion people in 1980 to 3.05 billion in 2005 (Kapsos 2007: 13). Increasing numbers of workers work within globalized production systems. A core question for those concerned with the IPE of production is the extent to which employment within these globalized systems can yield meaningful work, and contribute to sustainable and thriving livelihoods for the expanding global working class. This chapter investigates this question through an interrogation of two interlinked conceptions of better work: the concept of ‘social upgrading’ and the International Labour Organization’s conception of ‘Decent Work’. The concept of social upgrading has been proposed by leading practitioners within the global commodity chain, global value chain and global production network frameworks (GCC, GVC and GPN, respectively; Barrientos et al. 2011; Milberg and Winkler 2010).

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