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Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism
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Award-winning book showcases case studies uncovering the exploitation of labor and class in the Global South
Winner of the 2018 Paul M. Sweezy—Paul A. Baran Memorial Award for original work regarding the political economy of imperialism, Value Chains examines the exploitation of labor in the Global South. Focusing on the issue of labor within global value chains, this book offers a deft empirical analysis of unit labor costs that is closely related to Marx’s own theory of exploitation.
Value Chains uncovers the concrete processes through which multinational corporations, located primarily in the Global North, capture value from the Global South. We are brought face to face with various state-of-the-art corporate strategies that enforce “economical” and “flexible” production, including labor management methods, aimed to reassert the imperial dominance of the North, while continuing the dependency of the Global South and polarizing the global economy. Case studies of Indonesian suppliers exemplify the growing burden borne by the workers of the Global South, whose labor creates the surplus value that enriches the capitalists of the North, as well as the secondary capitals of the South. Today, those who control the value chains and siphon off the profits are primarily financial interests with vast economic and political power—the power that must be broken if the global working class is to liberate itself. Suwandi’s book depicts in concrete detail the relations of unequal exchange that structure today’s world economy. This study, up-to-date and richly documented, puts labor and class back at the center of our understanding of the world capitalist system.
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About the Author
- Publisher : Monthly Review Press (August 22, 2019)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1583677828
- ISBN-13 : 978-1583677827
- Item Weight : 13.9 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.63 x 8.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #9,520,994 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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In any event, the field research takes up a fairly small part of the book. The rest is given over to polemics, grand Marxist theory, and (inevitably) literature surveys. The sections are turgid, repetitive, jargon-laden, and only tenuously tied to her field research. They draw heavily on mid-20th century books by Paul Sweezy, Paul Baran, and Harry Braverman -- long-dead authors associated with Monthly Review magazine (which is now edited by the author's dissertation advisor at Oregon). These books were classics in their day but the author went astray when she tried to graft their mid-20th century lessons onto conditions in the modern global economy. She hangs on to tired rhetoric about North/South imperialism in spite of the rise of China and other emerging markets. She makes no attempt to demonstrate that multinational companies rig prices or earn supra-competitive profits, even though these assumptions are central to her thesis. She seems to accept the labor theory of value, asserting, for example, that the difference between labor costs in Indonesia and final sales prices in the U.S. must reflect "exploitation," as if no value were added in the U.S. Fatally, at no point does she lay out and test a clear model of global economic dynamics, not even a Marxist one. The book's endnotes are packed with references to radical literature from the 1960s and '70s. That's scholasticism, not social science.
It's unfortunate that a book published in the 21st century -- even one by a sociologist, not an economist -- is so mired in the economics of the 1860s and the 1960s. The author now has her sociology doctorate. Let's wish her well and hope that her gift for field research is put to better use in the future.