The multinational enterprise in global production and trade networks | International Business

Length: 3,000 words

Details: 

The world of international business is complex and contested. It is also changing rapidly. These changes apply to international business as a whole, the frameworks and structures of businesses themselves, and the way we understand them.

The task of this assignment is to select one of the four international business theories that we have looked at in weeks 6 and 7 of this course – global value chains, global production networks, the global factory, or the platform economy – and apply it to a specific industry of your choosing. Once you have chosen your theory and industry, the essay should be written in response to the following question:

“Does the [your selected theory] theory accurately reflect the current nature of the [your selected industry] industry?”

Some examples:

  • Does the global factory theory accurately reflect the current nature of the clothing industry?
  • Does the global value chain theory accurately reflect the current nature of the consumer electronics industry?
  • Does the platform economy theory accurately reflect the current nature of the transport industry?
  • Does the global production network theory accurately reflect the current nature of the food industry?

This full question should be written at the opening of your essay. 

 Further Guidance

In order to successfully complete this assignment, your final essay should include the following (note that this is NOT a suggested essay structure):

  • A firm understanding of your chosen theory, including:
    • Its scholarly origins
    • The problems that it tries to address.
    • How it differs from theories that came before it
    • Its contemporary critics and alternatives
  • A firm understanding of your chosen industry, including:
    • Key firms
    • Industry structure
    • Ownership and financing
    • The influence of government or civil society institutions in firm behaviour
    • Changes to the above over time, and the reasons for these changes.
  • A thorough application of theory to industry, including:
    • The strengths of the theory in understanding the current nature of the industry
    • The limitations of the theory in understanding the current nature of the industry
  • A consistent argument in response to the question: does this theory accurately reflect the current nature of your chosen industry?

See also the rubric below for guidance on what we are looking for.

Structure

You are free to use whatever essay structure you feel best conveys this analysis (some structures may be better suited to some theory/industry combinations). However the following suggested structure is recommended:

  1. Introduction
  2. Overview of your theory
  3. History of your industry
  4. Application of theory to industry
  5. Critiques/limitations of this theory’s application to your industry
  6. Conclusion

Other tips for this assignment

  • Take the time to read extensively on your theory – do not base your understanding on a single text or our summary below.
  • The essay should blend historical analysis with critical theoretical analysis – avoid simply describing things without relating them back to theory.
  • Exercise critical thinking – take a stance on the essay question tell us what you think about the theory in question, not just what others think.
  • Make sure that you focus on an industry, not an individual firm.

Theories

The following is a primer of the four theories available to you to aide your selection. For further information see the lectures for weeks 5 and 6 and the reading list for each theory below.  

  1.  Global Factory/Factory-less Production

As the number and scale of multinational enterprises (MNEs) grew in the 1980s and 1990s, there was increasing recognition that international businesses were no longer an exception, but now becoming the standard. One institutional form that theorists of international business examined is the “global factory”. The global factory can be viewed as an organisational network, where the firm deals with intangible public goods, such as knowledge (Buckley. 2014). The boundaries of the firm are said to be porous and attention is placed on strategic decisions about arrangements within and between firms. A version of the global factory is the factory-less factory, especially evident in electrical machinery and equipment, machine and mechanical appliances and computers, pharmaceuticals, and apparel.

  1. Global Value Chains (GVC)

As the growth of international production and exchange extended further, we started seeing the unbundling of the MNC as a single coherent and discrete entity with clear boundaries. The global value chain (GVC) literature developed a concept of value chains that was first floated by Michael Porter in his competitive advantage work.

The GVC approach was developed around a question about whether an unequal relationship existed between where value was being created and where it was captured. In value chains there may be places where exchange is unequal where, for instance, a grower of coffee may get less than the value created when selling to a merchant, or paying debts from a finance company.

Given that GVC began with a special focus on industries in developing countries, it is perhaps no surprise that the approach is associated with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at Sussex University, and has been picked up by international policy institutions like the International Labour Organisation.

GVC decentres the analysis of IB on companies and what companies do themselves. GVC is instead interested in relations of power and control up and down industries. These relations are recast not in terms of ownership but in terms of governance, and there are several forms of governance developed here.

GVC also offers policy action and especially through notions of economic and social upgrading.

  1. Global Production Networks (GPN)

The other main network/chain approach is global production networks, developed by economic geographers, notably out of the University of Manchester. Just like the GVC approach the conceptual focus of GPN is on the spatial and institutional relationships between production, exchange, distribution and consumption. It recognises that the way global production is being organised and reorganised is extending across all sorts of countries, producing lots of small components and organised in complex ways.

It is also based on an explicit recognition of the fluidity and changeability of those relationships. As Coe, Dicken and Hess note:

“Production networks are inherently dynamic; they are always, by definition, in a process of flux—in the process of becoming—both organizationally and geographically. The spatio-temporality of production networks, therefore, is highly variable and contingent. As Hudson (2004, p. 462) points out, ‘[…] economic processes must be conceptualized in terms of a complex circuitry with a multiplicity of linkages and feedback loops rather than just “simple” circuits or, even worse, linear flows’. Some networks are long-lived, others are more ephemeral; some are geographically extensive, others are more geographically localized. None remain completely unchanged for very long.” (‘GPN – realising the potential’, Journal of Economic Geography, p 271, 2008)

The claim for GPN then is that like GVC it recognises the increasing fluidity and extended nature of global production. It also claims it is more expansive and comprehensive than GVC, because it opens up non-linear, multi-level relations and transactions.

  1. The Platform Economy

The final and most recent approach to IB is the Platform Economy concept. It is probably too early to identify a theoretical discourse built around the concept (it’s still a concept in search of a theory). That’s not to say that there is not theoretical development occurring, and in the second instalment of the lectures on international production we noted work in sociology and social theory – Castells, Beck, Hardt and Negri and others.

But within IB, there is recognition that platforms represent a frontier form of business, and that this form is disrupting earlier forms. For instance, a recent Harvard Business Review article has framed the increasing presence of platforms as a frontier business model this way:

“Products produce a single revenue stream, while platforms—which we define as intermediaries that connect two or more distinct groups of users and enable their direct interaction—can generate many. Indeed, a large number of the world’s most valuable companies by market capitalization in 2015 were platform companies, including five of the top 10 (Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Facebook). Although some of those companies started with platforms, many started with products: Amazon launched as a retailer in 1994 and six years later introduced Amazon Marketplace; Google began with a search engine in the mid-1990s and then introduced search advertising in 2000; and Apple created the iPod in 2001 but didn’t move toward a platform until it developed the iTunes Store in 2003 and the App Store in 2008.” Zhu and Furr ‘Products to Platforms: Making the Leap’ HBR 2016)

So, we have many of the leading global firms, especially those that produce intangible products or services either based on or transitioning to more platform type business models. The question here is whether this is generalizable to lots of other businesses or specific to a few spectacularly successful firms? But as an expression of intangible capital and the frontiers of IB this is an exciting and important development; one worth thinking about and taking seriously.

Reading lists

  1. Global Factory/Factory-less Production

Essential

Bernard, A. and Fort, T. (2015) ‘Factoryless Goods Producing Firm’, American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings 105 (5): 518-523. http://faculty.tuck.dartmouth.edu/images/uploads/faculty/andrew-bernard/aerpp-fgpfs.pdf (Links to an external site.)

Buckley, P. (2014) ‘International Integration and Coordination in the Global Factory’. In P. Buckley The Multinational Enterprise and the Emergence of the Global Factory, Palgrave Macmillan https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1057/9781137402387_1.pdf (Links to an external site.)

Buckley, P. (2009) ‘The impact of the global factory on economic development’ Journal of World Business, 44 (2): 131 – 143. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090951608000424 (Links to an external site.)

Liang, G. (2016) ‘The “Fox-Apple” partnership in the global value chain: how did foreign direct investment and contract manufacturing reshape the landscape of the electronics industry?’. In Y. Xing (Ed.), Uncovering value added in trade: New approaches to analyzing global value chains (World Scientific Publishing, Singapore): 141-166

Zuboff, S. (2015). ‘Big Other: Surveillance Capitalism and the Prospects of an Information Civilization’, Journal of Information Technology 30 (1): 75–89. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057/jit.2015.5 (Links to an external site.)

Other

De Marchi, V,, Di Maria, E. and Gereffi, G. (Eds) (2017) Local Clusters in Global Value Chains : Linking Actors and Territories Through Manufacturing and Innovation. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/rmit/detail.action?docID=4930679 (Links to an external site.)

Eriksson, T, Nummela, N. and Saarenketo, S. (2014) Dynamic capability in a small global factory’, International Business Review, 23: 169 – 180. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0969593113000541 (Links to an external site.)

Hirst, P. and Thompson, G. (1992) ‘The problem of globalisation: international economic relations, national economic management and the formation of trading blocs’, Economy and Society, 21 (4): 357 – 96. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/03085149200000017

Sturgeon, T. (2000)  ‘How Do We Define Value Chains and Production Networks?’  (Links to an external site.)

UNCTAD (2017) World Investment Report 2017, United Nations Publications ISBN 978-92-1-112911-3

United Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations (1988) Transnational Corporations in World Development: Trends and Prospects, New York: United Nations.

Zuboff, S. (2019) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, Profile Books.

  1. Global Value Chains (GVC) and Global Production Networks (GPN)

Essential

Dicken, P. (2003), ‘”Placing” firms: grounding the debate on the “global” corporation’, in J. Peck and H. Wai-chung Yeung (eds.), Remaking the Global Economy: Economic-Geographical Perspectives, London: Sage, pp. 27 – 44.

Kaplinsky, R. (2004) ‘

Sturgeon, T. (2000)  ‘How Do We Define Value Chains and Production Networks?’  (Links to an external site.)

Sturgeon, T. (2008) ‘From Commodity Chains to Value Chains: Interdisciplinary Theory Building in an Age of Globalization’, Industry Studies Association, http://isapapers.pitt.edu/84/1/2008-02_Sturgeon.pdf (Links to an external site.)

Other

Amin, A. (2004) ‘Regions Unbound: Towards a New Politics of Place’, Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 86 (1): 33-44.

Barrientos, S. and Perron, D. (1999) Gender and the Global Food Chain: a Comparative Study of Chile and the UK’. In Afshar, H. and Barrientos, S. (eds) Women, Globalization and Fragmentation in the Developing World, pp. 150-173

De Backer, K and Miroudot, S. (May 2014) Mapping Global Value Chains European Central Bank, Working Paper Series No. 1677 https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2436411 (Links to an external site.)

De Marchi, V,, Di Maria, E. and Gereffi, G. (Eds) (2017) Local Clusters in Global Value Chains : Linking Actors and Territories Through Manufacturing and Innovation. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/rmit/detail.action?docID=4930679 (Links to an external site.).

Dicken, P. (2003), ‘”Placing” firms: grounding the debate on the “global” corporation’, in J. Peck and H. Wai-chung Yeung (eds.), Remaking the Global Economy: Economic-Geographical Perspectives, London: Sage, pp. 27 – 44.

Dicken, P. (1992) Global Shift: The Internationalization of Economic Activity, London: Paul Chapman

Fairbrother, P., Denham, T., West, M., Douglas, N., Salim, F. and Teng, S-W. (2018) ‘Gippsland food value chain: Data-driven regional development ‘, Centre for People, Organisation and Work, https://cpow.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Food-Agility-Gippsland-Project-Final-Report-20181205-1.pdf (Links to an external site.)

Gereffi, G. and Fernandez-Stark, K. (2011) Global Value Chain Analysis Centre on Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Karina_Fernandez-Stark/publication/265892395_Global_Value_Chain_Analysis_A_Primer/links/54218b000cf274a67fea984b.pdf (Links to an external site.)

Gereffi , G., Humphrey, J. & Sturgeon, T.  (2005) The governance of global value chains, Review of International Political Economy, 12 (1): 78-104, DOI: 10.1080/09692290500049805 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09692290500049805 (Links to an external site.)

Hirst, P. and Thompson, G. (1992) ‘The problem of globalisation: international economic relations, national economic management and the formation of trading blocs’, Economy and Society, 21 (4): 357 – 96.

Kaplinsky, R. and Farooki, M. (2010). “What are the Implications for Global Value Chains When the Market Shifts from the North to the South?”. World bank. http://oro.open.ac.uk/22406/1/Kaplinsky%2C_Farooki_World_Bank_WPS5205.pdf (Links to an external site.)

UNCTAD (2017) World Investment Report 2017, United Nations Publications ISBN 978-92-1-112911-3

United Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations (1988) Transnational Corporations in World Development: Trends and Prospects, New York: United Nations.

Zuboff, S. (2019) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, Profile Books

  1. Global Production Networks (GPN)

Essential

Coe, N., Dicken, P. and Hess, M. (2008) ‘Global production networks: realizing the potential’, Journal of Economic Geography, 8 (3): 271– 295 295,  https://doi.org/10.1093/jeg/lbn002 (Links to an external site.)

Coe, N., Lai, K. and Wójcik, D. (2014) Integrating Finance into Global Production Networks, Regional Studies, 48:5, 761-777, DOI: 10.1080/00343404.2014.886772 (Links to an external site.)

Neilson, J., Pritchard, B. & Wai-chung Yeung, H.  (2014) ‘Global value chains and global production networks in the changing international political economy: An introduction’, Review of International Political Economy, 21 (1): 1-8, DOI: 10.1080/09692290.2013.873369 (Links to an external site.) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09692290.2013.873369 (Links to an external site.)

Sturgeon, T. (2000)  ‘How Do We Define Value Chains and Production Networks?’  (Links to an external site.)

Other

Amin, A. (2004) ‘Regions Unbound: Towards a New Politics of Place’, Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 86 (1): 33-44.

Barrientos, S. and Perron, D. (1999) Gender and the Global Food Chain: a Comparative Study of Chile and the UK’. In Afshar, H. and Barrientos, S. (eds) Women, Globalization and Fragmentation in the Developing World, pp. 150-173

De Backer, K and Miroudot, S. (May 2014) Mapping Global Value Chains European Central Bank, Working Paper Series No. 1677 https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2436411 (Links to an external site.)

De Marchi, V,, Di Maria, E. and Gereffi, G. (Eds) (2017) Local Clusters in Global Value Chains : Linking Actors and Territories Through Manufacturing and Innovation. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/rmit/detail.action?docID=4930679 (Links to an external site.).

Dicken, P. (2003), ‘”Placing” firms: grounding the debate on the “global” corporation’, in J. Peck and H. Wai-chung Yeung (eds.), Remaking the Global Economy: Economic-Geographical Perspectives, London: Sage, pp. 27 – 44.

Dicken, P. (1992) Global Shift: The Internationalization of Economic Activity, London: Paul Chapman

Fairbrother, P., Denham, T., West, M., Douglas, N., Salim, F. and Teng, S-W. (2018) ‘Gippsland food value chain: Data-driven regional development ‘, Centre for People, Organisation and Work, https://cpow.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Food-Agility-Gippsland-Project-Final-Report-20181205-1.pdf (Links to an external site.)

Henderson, J., Dicken, P., Hess, M., Coe, N. & Wai-Chung Yeung, H. (2002) ‘Global production networks and the analysis of economic development’, Review of International Political Economy, 9 (3): 436-464, DOI: 10.1080/09692290210150842 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09692290210150842?needAccess=true (Links to an external site.)

Hirst, P. and Thompson, G. (1992) ‘The problem of globalisation: international economic relations, national economic management and the formation of trading blocs’, Economy and Society, 21 (4): 357 – 96.

UNCTAD (2017) World Investment Report 2017, United Nations Publications ISBN 978-92-1-112911-3

United Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations (1988) Transnational Corporations in World Development: Trends and Prospects, New York: United Nations.

Zuboff, S. (2019) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, Profile Books

  1. Platform Economy

Essential

Kenney, M. and Zysman (2016) ‘The Rise of the Platfomr Economy’, Issues in Science and Technology, pp. 61 – 69 https://www.nbp.pl/badania/seminaria/25x2016_2.pdf (Links to an external site.)

Schmidt, F. A. (2017). Digital labour markets in the platform economy. Mapping the Political Challenges of Crowd Work and Gig Work7, 2016. https://library.fes.de/pdf-files/wiso/13164.pdf

Van Doorn, N. (2017). Platform labor: on the gendered and racialized exploitation of low-income service work in the ‘on-demand’economy.Information, Communication & Society, 20(6): 898-914. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1369118X.2017.1294194?scroll=top&needAccess=true& (Links to an external site.)

Zuboff, S. (2015). ‘Big Other: Surveillance Capitalism and the Prospects of an Information Civilization’, Journal of Information Technology 30 (1): 75–89. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057/jit.2015.5 (Links to an external site.)

 Other

Drahokoupil, Jan and Fabo, Brian, The Platform Economy and the Disruption of the Employment Relationship (July 14, 2016). ETUI Research Paper – Policy Brief 5/2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2809517 (Links to an external site.) or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2809517 (Links to an external site.)

Langley, P. and Leyshon, A. (2017) ‘Platform capitalism : the intermediation and  capitalisation of digital economic circulation.’, Finance and society., 3 (1). pp. 11-31.

Castells, M. (1996) The Information Age: Economy, society and culture, Vol. 1 The rise of the  Network Society. Oxford, Blackwell, especially prologue and chapter 5.

Castells, Manuel. (2005).TheNetworkSociety: From Knowledge to Policy. In The Network Society From Knowledge to Policy, edited by Manuel Castells and Gustavo Cardoso, pp.3- 3. Washington, DC: John Hopkins Center for Transatlantic Relations.

Giddens, A. (2002) Runaway World, Profile Books.

Hardt, M. and Negri, A. (2000) Empire, Cambridge Mass. Harvard University Press,  especially chapters 1.2, 3.4 and 4.3.

Harvey, D. (2003) The new imperialism, Oxford: Oxford University Press.  Stiglitz, J (2002) Globalisation and its Discontents, London: Allen Lane.

Hirst, P. and Thompson, G. (1992) ‘The problem of globalisation: international economic relations, national economic management and the formation of trading blocs’, Economy and Society, 21 (4): 357 – 96.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jan/20/shoshana-zuboff-age-of-surveillance-capitalism-google-facebook (Links to an external site.)

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/feb/02/age-of-surveillance-capitalism-shoshana-zuboff-review (Links to an external site.)

https://journals.sagepub.com/eprint/3FMTvCNPJ4SkhW9tgpWP/full (Links to an external site.)

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/12/the-rise-of-intangible-income-a-global-value-chain-perspective/  (Links to an external site.) 

https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/wages-for-facebook (Links to an external site.)

Kaplan, R.A. , and Nadler, M.L. (2015). Airbnb: A Case Study in Occupancy Regulation and Taxation, The University of Chicago Law Review, 82: 103. 

Langley, P. and Leyshon, A. (2017) ‘Platform capitalism : the intermediation and capitalisation of digital economic circulation.’, Finance and society., 3 (1). pp. 11-31. http://dro.dur.ac.uk/19828/2/19828.pdf (Links to an external site.)

Srnicek, N (2017) Platform Capitalism Cambridge: Polity Presshttps://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=2HdNDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR3&dq=emerging+platform+economy&ots=nrJFKxNi2n&sig=qnWuYsftHAA-nY2iawid-Qnx1sU&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=emerging%20platform%20economy&f=false (Links to an external site.)

UNCTAD (2017) World Investment Report 2017, United Nations Publications ISBN 978-92-1-112911-3

United Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations (1988) Transnational Corporations in World Development: Trends and Prospects, New York: United Nations.

Vandaele, Kurt, Will Trade Unions Survive in the Platform Economy? Emerging Patterns of Platform Workers’ Collective Voice and Representation in Europe (June 19, 2018). ETUI Research Paper – Working Paper 2018.05. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3198546 (Links to an external site.) or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3198546 (Links to an external site.)

Zuboff, S. (2019) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, London: Profile Books.

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