SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

Issues in global commodity chains, production networks and informal work

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

This module examines the impact of neoliberal globalisation on the industrial trajectories and production paradigms of developing regions, and maps the consequent implications of these processes in the realms of work, gender and poverty. First, it provides an outline of the earlier consensus on industrial development and analyses how the birth of the ‘globalisation project’ led to a new international division of labour and to new production paradigms. Second, the module describes and analyses these new paradigms. Particular emphasis is given to the ‘clustering’ of industrial production in local production networks in developing regions, and to the formation of globalised production circuits - today known as ‘global commodity chains’ (GCCs), ‘global value chains’ (GVCs) and/or ‘global production networks’ (GPNs). Global chains and networks are explored both with reference to manufacturing and agro-food production. Third, the module discusses the implications of the restructuring of production for labour, gender and poverty. It explains in detail contemporary processes of informalisation and feminisation of labour; it illustrates how these processes relate to poverty; and analyses the rise of global ‘social responsibility’ concerns, labour standards and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices, debating their implications for employment conditions in developing regions. Finally, the module highlights how all these trends and dynamics shape specific challenges for development within neoliberal ‘global’ production scenarios, and illustrates some of the main methodological challenges in the study of global production and of the informal labour circuits they incorporate.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module, students will be able to demonstrate:

  • a knowledge of the evolution of the industrial trajectories of developing countries
  • an awareness of the impact of different industrial strategies and practices
  • a knowledge of the consequences of different industrial strategies for development
  • an ability to evaluate the empirical basis of different approaches to industrial development
  • analytical and critical skills in relation to ideas discussed in lectures and tutorials, and through individual research
  • communication skills through seminar presentations and discussions in class 

The aims of the module are:

  • Familiarise students with the impact of neoliberal globalisation on the industrial trajectories of developing countries.
  • Review and examine the features of the main post-1970s industrial development models.
  • Compare and contrast some of the current industrial development experiences of different developing countries/ regions.  
  • Introduce students to the links between industrial change and changes in patterns of labour and poverty.
  • Introduce students to the links between industrial change and given development policies and practices.
  • Present a number of current methodological challenges for the study of industrial activities in developing countries.


Teaching takes place through a weekly 2 seminar.

Method of assessment

100% Coursework. Each student will be required to submit an Essay worth 60% of the overall grade and a blog worth 40% of the overall grade.  Resubmission of coursework regulations apply.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules