Global Commodity Chains and the Pandemic

Labor-Power in Agricultural Sectors in Kenya and Chile


  • Lara M. Espeter Technische Universität Berlin
  • Patricia Retamal University of Chile, Chile



Global Commodity Chains, World-Systems Analysis, COVID-19 Pandemic, Labor-Power, Gender, Agriculture, Kenya, Chile


The availability of labor-power is a critical element of all commodity chains. This is especially true of labor-intensive production processes such as agriculture. The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on this, as well as on many other aspects of the economy and everyday life. The institutions of the modern world-system responded in various ways to the new situation influenced by COVID-19, taking measures to mitigate and avert the detrimental effects. This paper examines these responses and their impact on the availability of labor-power in the agricultural areas of Nakuru County, Kenya, and O’Higgins Region, Chile. By practically applying world-systems analysis, we shed light on the significance of institutions during periods of stagnation and their impact on the availability of labor-power in global commodity chains. This allows us to draw conclusions about the general impact of institutional responses to stagnation phases at the worker level. We show that the institutions studied responded in very different ways to the stagnation phase affected by COVID-19. As a result, O’Higgins Region experienced a labor-power shortage that Nakuru County had not, which may have a lasting impact on labor-power availability.

Author Biographies

Lara M. Espeter, Technische Universität Berlin

Lara M. Espeter is a research associate in the project Apples and Flowers. Effects of Pandemics on the (Re-)Organization of Commodity Chains for Fresh Agricultural Products and an associate member at the Collaborate Research Centre Re-Figuration of Spaces (CRC 1265) at Technische Universität Berlin. Her research focuses on the origins and effects of social inequality by looking at current and historical structures of the world-economy.

Patricia Retamal, University of Chile, Chile

Patricia Retamal is a PhD candidate in the Territory, Space and Society program at the University of Chile and a thesis student in the regular Fondecyt program (N° 1210331) Extractive citizenships? Citizen practices in rural territories. She is currently the Gender Coordinator of the Vice-Rectory of Research and Development at the University of Chile. Her research focuses on the effects of agribusiness on the social reproduction of women in the workforce.


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How to Cite

Espeter, L. M., & Retamal, P. (2024). Global Commodity Chains and the Pandemic: Labor-Power in Agricultural Sectors in Kenya and Chile . Journal of World-Systems Research, 30(1), 223–248.