Analyzing Global Commodity Chains and Social Reproduction
Mapping the Household within Multi-Sited and Hierarchical Capitalist Relations
Keywords:Inequality, Households, Gender, Global Commodity Chain, GCCs, Development, Capitalism
World-systems analysts argue that households take on a structural role within the capitalist system to mediate pressures exerted by the state and economic actors. Underpinning this view is the supply of low-paid and waged labor by household members in the process of social reproduction and the role of households as sites of commodity consumption. Here, I argue that the analytical choice to use the features of low-waged households renders a partial analysis of their structural location within a multi-sited capitalist system. While acknowledging that households across the Global Commodity Chain (GCC) are neither spatially segregated (i.e., global North, global South) nor solely spaces of production or consumption, I suggest that households differ in their structural location within a multi-sited capitalist system, subject to their incidence on the instantiation of hierarchical capitalist relations. First, “core” households differ from their peripheral counterparts via their reliance on financial assetization and capital accumulation in the core for (intergenerational) social reproduction. Second, in the process of social reproduction, core household excess commodity consumption generates metabolic differentials that fuel hierarchical relations of production and place core households in a more central location within a multi-sited capitalist system compared to peripheral ones. Third, the analysis of hierarchical capitalist relations and GCCs focuses on capital accumulation and the extraction of (women’s) household unpaid labor in the periphery. I argue that to more fully capture the extraction of unpaid labor across the GCC, household fluidity and heterogeneity and associated variation in intra-household divisions of labor must be analytically considered.
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