Rents, Power and Governance in Global Value Chains


  • Dennis Davis University of Cape Town
  • Raphael Kaplinsky SPRU, University of Sussex
  • Mike Morris Economics Department University of Cape Town Cape Town South Africa



Governance, Global Value Chains, Economic Rents, Competition Policy, Taxation, Globalisation


This paper addresses the  generation  of  rents  and  the  distribution  of  gains  in  the  global  operations  of  governed Global  Value  Chains  (GVCs)  and  seeks  to  provide  an  architecture  for  analyzing  the  governance  of  GVCs.  It distinguishes between four sets of rent—gifts of nature; innovation rents; exogenously defined rents; and market power—and three spheres of governance—setting the rules -“legislative governance”; implementing the rules -“executive governance”; and monitoring rules and sanctioning malfeasance -“judicial governance.” The exercise of governance power in GVCs over the generation, protection and appropriation of rents is considered though the lens of four sets of key GVC stakeholders—the corporate sector, civil society organizations, the nation state and supranational institutions. This general analysis is given flesh through three case studies: food-safety standards in GVCs; taxation  policies  and  competition  policies.  In these  sectors,  the  corporate  sector  is  generally  much  more effective in governing rent generation and appropriation in the global operations of GVCs than are the three sets of  non-corporate  stakeholders.  From this  observation  we  offer  a  hypothesis  that  the  capacity  of  non-corporate stakeholders, including national states, to govern GVCs is contingent upon the extent to which this coincides with the interest of the corporate sector. However, as noted, this balance of power between private and non-corporate actors is a contested terrain and dynamic in nature.

Author Biographies

Dennis Davis, University of Cape Town

Dennis Davis is Judge President of the Competition Appeal Court of South Africa, Chair of South Africa Tax Commission, and Honorary professor of Law at University of Cape Town.

Raphael Kaplinsky, SPRU, University of Sussex

Raphael Kaplinsky is Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Development Studies and an Honorary Professorial Fellow at the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex. His research interests include Global Value Chains, Industrial and Innovation Policy, the Resource Sector andSocio-technical Paradigms. 

Mike Morris, Economics Department University of Cape Town Cape Town South Africa

Mike Morris is Emeritus Professor in the School of Economics at the University of Cape Town and an honorary Research Associate at the Institute of Development Studies. He has significant experience working with national, regional and international policy makers and published widely on global value chains and economic development. 


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How to Cite

Davis, D., Kaplinsky, R., & Morris, M. (2018). Rents, Power and Governance in Global Value Chains. Journal of World-Systems Research, 24(1), 43–71.