Accepted Paper:

The politics of state governance in global production networks: insights from the South African fruit crisis.   


Matt Alford (University of Manchester)
Nicola Phillips

Paper Short Abstract:

The role of the state in the governance of global production networks is under-explored. Far from being passive actors, states actively adopt different kinds of governance functions. We highlight tensions within public governance and explore the politics of those tensions in South African fruit.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the complex and multi-faceted role of the state and public governance in global production networks (GPNs). Such an agenda stems from what we perceive as an existing lack of engagement with politics and the central role of states as architects of GPNs. Whilst recent GPN scholarship has begun to incorporate the state and public governance into analysis, there is a tendency to perceive the state in economistic terms, largely passive and merely reactive to the power of economic actors in GPNs. Building on recent analytical insights, we advance our understanding of the state as an active political agent, with various governance functions (facilitative, regulatory and distributive) in the GPN. This analytical framing helps elucidate the dynamic and contested nature of state governance, both internally and in relation to private GPN actors.

We explore how the politics of state governance play out in a particular political-economic context: the South African fruit sector, and in particular a labour crisis that occurred in 2012/13. Adopting a political-economic perspective, we reveal tensions within state governance and the politics of those tensions in GPNs. The contribution of the paper is two-fold. Firstly, our analysis sheds important light on the 2012/13 labour crisis in South African fruit, and the tensions that emerged within state governance processes and between state, private, civil society actors and labour in the GPN. Secondly, we offer critical analytical insights into the complex and multi-faceted role of the state, highlighting the importance of re-integrating politics into questions of governance in GPNs.

Panel P61
Global production networks and the politics and policies of development