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Value Chains – The New Economic Imperialism

Value Chains
Intan Suwandi
NYU Press, 2019
Grado: debutante
Perspective: Other
Topic: (De-)growth, Business & Firm, Crises, Criticism of Capitalism, Economic History, Globalization & International Economic Relations, Inequality & Class, Innovation & Technology, Institutions, Governments & Policy, Labour & Care, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics & Markets, Money & Debt, North-South Relations & Development, Other, Race & Gender, Reflection of Economics, Resources, Environment & Climate, Social movements & Transformation
page count: 224 pages
ISBN: 9781583677810


Award-winning book showcases case studies uncovering the exploitation of labor and class in the Global SouthWinner of the 2018 Paul M. Sweezy—Paul A. Baran Memorial Award for original work regarding the political economy of imperialism, Value Chains examines the exploitation of labor in the Global South. Focusing on the issue of labor within global value chains, this book offers a deft empirical analysis of unit labor costs that is closely related to Marx’s own theory of exploitation.Value Chains uncovers the concrete processes through which multinational corporations, located primarily in the Global North, capture value from the Global South. We are brought face to face with various state-of-the-art corporate strategies that enforce “economical” and “flexible” production, including labor management methods, aimed to reassert the imperial dominance of the North, while continuing the dependency of the Global South and polarizing the global economy. Case studies of Indonesian suppliers exemplify the growing burden borne by the workers of the Global South, whose labor creates the surplus value that enriches the capitalists of the North, as well as the secondary capitals of the South. Today, those who control the value chains and siphon off the profits are primarily financial interests with vast economic and political power—the power that must be broken if the global working class is to liberate itself. Suwandi’s book depicts in concrete detail the relations of unequal exchange that structure today’s world economy. This study, up-to-date and richly documented, puts labor and class back at the center of our understanding of the world capitalist system.

Book summary

In this book, the author, Intan Suwandi, engages with the question of imperialism through the specific channel of Global Value Chains. Using a detailed empirical analysis and a set of case studies, the author explores the issue of unequal exchange between Global South and Global North and how value is transferred from the labour of the South to the capitalists of the North as well as to those in the South. Through this analysis, the book explores a new form of imperialism that manifests itself specifically through a transfer of value via Global Value Chains.

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