Global Production Networks and International Inequality: Making a Case for a Meso-Level Turn in Macro-Comparative Sociology

  • Mathew C. Mahutga University of California, Riverside
Keywords: Commodity chains, value chains, production networks, international inequality, development

Abstract

In this article, I extend recent macro-comparative empirical research on the developmental implications of global production networks. I draw from theories of commodity/value chains, global production networks and economic sociology to identify three contending theoretical perspectives for exactly how the developmental returns to network participants should be distributed-cooperation, exploitation and differential gains-and derive testable hypotheses for each. Adding to recent empirical advances for measuring the average network position of firms at the country level, I evaluate these hypotheses by way of dynamic panel regression models of hourly wage rates in the garment and transportation equipment industries. The results suggest that macro-sociological theories linking underdevelopment to the structure of the world-economy, as well as theories of the distribution of the gains from network participation, miss important variation at the industry level. Cooperation provides a poor account of the distribution of the gains from network participation. Instead, both industries appear to distribute the gains from network participation differentially across network participants. However, the extent of this inequality increases, and the garment industry transitions to exploitation, when global production networks become entrenched organizational logics. Variation in the distribution of the returns to network participation is explicable only by accounting for production-network governance as it varies across industries and over time. I conclude by highlighting the analytical utility to macro-comparative sociology of a turn toward the mesa-level of global industries.
Published
2014-03-01
How to Cite
Mahutga, M. C. (2014). Global Production Networks and International Inequality: Making a Case for a Meso-Level Turn in Macro-Comparative Sociology. Journal of World-Systems Research, 20(1), 11-37. https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2014.573
Section
The Politcal Economy of Commodity Chains