Global Production Networks

Authored by: Neil M. Coe

The Routledge Companion to the Geography of International Business

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138953345
eBook ISBN: 9781315667379
Adobe ISBN:


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The world economy has changed profoundly in recent times. It is now widely accepted that organizationally fragmented and geographically dispersed production systems constitute the dominant ‘architecture’ of the contemporary global economy. These systems, which have risen to prominence since the 1990s, are tightly controlled and coordinated by lead firms that derive power from their dominant position in either intermediate or final consumer markets. In its World Investment Report 2013, for instance, UNCTAD estimated that some 80 per cent of international trade was now organized through so-called global value chains/production networks (UNCTAD, 2013). Their emergence has posed key challenges to theories from International Business (IB) that primarily focus on the transnational corporation (TNC) and its directly owned operations to understand the organizational and developmental dynamics of the global economy. Instead, theories are required that can accommodate the complex global webs of equity, non-equity and market relations through which the production and circulation of goods and services are increasingly controlled and coordinated. In this context, since the 1990s, significant progress has been made in developing global chain/network approaches for theorizing the organizational complexities of the contemporary global economy. Although first initiated in economic sociology, since the early 2000s economic geographers have made a notable series of contributions to this burgeoning field, primarily under the rubric of the global production network (GPN) 1 framework.

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