Sub-theme 43: Transnational Social Movements and Global Value Chains

Florence Palpacuer
University of Montpellier, France
Jennifer Bair
University of Colorado, USA
Alessia Contu
Warwick Business School, UK

Call for Papers

The last decades have witnessed the rise of unprecedented levels of geographical dispersion and transnational coordination in the organization of corporate activities. Value chains previously organized and regulated in domestic settings have become integrated into global management systems through complex inter-firm and intra-firm network arrangements. The development of global value chains (GVCs) poses new dilemmas regarding the social and environmental dimensions of economic activity: Regulations addressing these issues remain circumscribed at the national level, and although a handful of initiatives have emerged to promote socially and ecologically sustainable production in global industries, they are both voluntary and limited in scope, leading critics to conclude that globalization is leading to heightened social and environmental exploitation.

Yet the hegemony of global capitalism is not as monolithic as some of these critics suggest. In fact, the gap that exists between the national levels at which extant regulations operate and the increasingly transnational scope of production networks is being challenged by the agency of social actors leading a variety of new social movements targeting global value chains. These include movements for sweat-free apparel, fair trade coffee, and sustainably-harvested timber, among others. By highlighting the interdependencies and power dynamics that exist within global industries, and linking these to the social and environmental consequences of transnational production networks, such movements provide a critical perspective on corporate social responsibility (CSR). Furthermore, many of these movements implicitly or explicitly adopt the analytical lens of the global value chains framework, and situate their own role as interventions in the governance of such chains.

Because this use of GVC analysis is worthy of increased academic attention, we welcome papers addressing the following questions:

  • How does the governance of global value chains affect the social and environmental aspects of production? In other words, how do social or environmental outcomes at one end of a global value chain relate to global decision-making processes at the other end of the chain?
  • How and to what extent do CSR practices and policies of global corporations affect social and environmental issues in GVCs that are organized through several layers of suppliers and intermediaries?
  • How do we account for changes in the power dynamics of GVCs and the emergence of oppositional agents? How are these agents and activist networks operating in the context of GVCs? How are these movements organized, and how are strategies defined and implemented?
  • How do corporate networks interact with activist networks within the context of global value chains? What kind of conflictual or cooperative agendas emerge from such interactions?
  • How do various actors such as firms, workers, environmental or social NGOs attempt to frame CSR debates in the context of global industries? What significant differences or similarities can we observe in this regard, and what role do NGOs play in the emergence of international norms or standards to regulate the social and environmental dimensions of global value chains? How are they positioned with regards to national governments and the role of public regulation?


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Bair, J. & F. Palpacuer (2008): The Emergence of New Social Movements in Global Commodity Chains: The Anti-sweatshop Movement in Comparative Perspective. EGOS Annual Colloquium, Amsterdam, VU University, The Netherlands, July 10–12, 2008.
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Contu, A. (2008): "Decaf Resistance: Misbehaviour, Desire and Cynicism in Liberal Workplaces." Management Communication Quarterly, 21, 264-379.
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Gibbon, P., J. Bair & S. Ponte (2008): "Governing Global Value Chains." Economy and Society, 37 (3), 315-338.
Levy, D. (2009): "Political Contestation in Global Production Networks." Academy of Management Review, 33 (4), 943-963.
Palpacuer, F. (2009): "For an institutional approach to corporate governance: Making sense of NGO campaigns in global apparel chains." Revue de l'Organisation Responsable, 1, 5-18.
Palpacuer, F., P. Gibbon & L. Thompsen (2005): "New challenges for developing country suppliers in global clothing chains: A comparative European perspective." World Development, 33 (3), 409-430.
Schurman, R. & W. Munro (2009): "Targeting Capital: A Cultural Economy Approach to Understanding the Efficacy of Two Anti-Genetic Engineering Movements." American Journal of Sociology, 115 (1), 155-202.


Florence Palpacuer 
Jennifer Bair 
Alessia Contu