Issues in global commodity chains, production networks and informal work

Key information

Module not running
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Development Studies

Module overview

This course examines the impact of neoliberal globalisation on the production and trade trajectories of developing regions, and maps the socio-economic and spatial implications of these processes in the realms of work, gender, poverty, mobility and social reproduction. After discussing the demise of the early industrial consensus and the rise of the neoliberal paradigm, the course analyses the incorporation of developing regions into the transnational geographies of production shaped by neoliberal globalisation; namely, ‘global commodity chains’ (GCCs), ‘global value chains’ (GVCs) and/or ‘global production networks’ (GPNs). Attention is paid to different analytical understandings of global chains and networks, which are explored both with reference to labour-intensive manufacturing, like sweatshops, and to agro-food production. In mapping the way in which labour, gender, poverty and mobility interplay in global chains and networks, the lectures highlight linkages between the current structure of global production circuits and that characterising the colonial and imperial era. They discuss contemporary processes of informalisation and feminisation of labour across the global assembly line; examine the global reorganisation of social reproduction into Global Care Chains; and explain the relevance of labour mobility in restructuring reproduction within and around global production circuits. In its final sessions, the course analyses issues of global labour regulation and methods. It explores the purchase of contemporary notions of ‘modern slavery’ to tackle forced labour, and it reviews debates on global labour standards and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), identifying their links with the new ‘abolitionist industrial complex’. The course concludes by illustrating some methodological challenges in the study of global production and informalised labour circuits, and identifying key concepts in political economy and feminist theory that can guide concrete field-based research. All lectures will engage with the current COVID-19 pandemic and its implications on global production and work, through the inclusion of specific viewpoints.

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