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Stunted Development, Labor Politics and Low-Value Added GPNs

Recent scholarship on labour and development in the global South has renewed critiques of conventional development theory along two main lines. The first has highlighted the unsuccessful transition of peasant small-holders into wage workers, whose incomes and employment benefits, it was once argued, would both satisfy their social reproduction needs and allow for expanded consumption. As a consequence of this apparently ‘stalled transition’ a contradiction has emerged between the valorization of wage labour/full employment, and the precarious reality of work and underemployment in contemporary capitalism. The second critique to emerge has focused on the failure of numerous late industrializing economies to transition from low- to high-value-added manufacturing. This latter failure of the development project exposes the contradiction between the promise and the reality of contemporary development strategies, and has led to disillusionment with industrial and other forms of waged work. As a result, growing frictions at the point of production and beyond have emerged, exposing tensions and fissures in development models across Continental Southeast Asia. What happens, we thus need to ask, when low-value-added export-oriented factories that are central to long-term strategies for economic growth at a sub-regional level, fail to serve as a stepping stone to higher-value-added manufacturing? How do states and workers adapt to and address the apparent lock-in of low-value, precarious, production network at the national and sub-regional scale? This presentation, led by speaker Professor Dennis Arnold of the University of Amsterdam, seeks to address these questions through analysis of the multiple power relations between state, capital and labor in Cambodia’s garment production network.

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Hosted by: 

  • Cornell Department of Development Sociology

  • Cornell Industrial and Labor Relations

  • Cornell Southeast Asia Program