- Workers' agency and power relations in Cambodia's garment industry
- Book title
- Towards better work: understanding labour in apparel global value chains
- Pages (from-to)
- Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
- ISBN (electronic)
- Advances in Labour Studies: International Labour Office
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
In the past three decades, a major transformation has occurred in the global economy as supply chains originating in ‘core economies’ have further expanded their sourcing networks into new frontier regions of production across East and South-East Asia (Arnold and Pickles 2011; Gereffi 2005). Scholarship on this phenomenon has expanded accordingly. Global value chain analysis describes the functionally integrated but geographically dispersed range of activities that firms and workers do to bring a product from its conception to its end use and beyond (Gereffi 2005). GPN analysts have critiqued the global value chains framework and its chain metaphor that assumes an invariably vertical and linear sequencing (Coe et al. 2008). In their terms, GPNs are a tool to conceptualize intricate linkages formed through multi-dimensional layers of economic activity. Thus, GPNs are better able to understand firm-centred production networks and the concrete political economic contexts in which they are embedded. However, absent from both frameworks is labour as agency (Cumbers et al. 2008). Selwyn (2012) argues that the most significant weakness of the global value chain approach is firm-centrism and the failure to conceptualize capital-labour relations as co-determinates of economic development. Drawing on Coe and Jordhus-Lier (2010), this chapter contributes to GPN analysis by demonstrating that the potential for worker action should always be seen in relation to the formations of capital, the state, the community and the labour market in which workers are variably embedded.
This chapter is based on fieldwork in Cambodia from April to June 2006, December 2008 to May 2009, August to September 2010, December 2010 and May to July 2011, and interviews with stakeholders in Cambodia via skype in September 2011. Certain sections draw on Arnold and Toh 2010. Qualitative methods were primary, including participant observation with the CCAWDU, interviews and focus group discussions with stakeholders including GMAC, government officials, international and multilateral organizations, NGOs, factory and industrial estate managers, development consultants and researchers, and other labour, industry and development analysts. This is supplemented with descriptive data analysis. Among the long list of people to thank, CCAWDU are foremost, especially Kong Athit for his thoughtful insights and analysis.
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