chapter  7
34 Pages

Networks and chains

World-systems analysts have always been guided by a concern with the ways in which uneven development is organized. It is therefore no surprise that two of the main globalization literatures, which aim at scrutinizing the structures and the modus operandi of the world-economy, have been engendered by world-systems analysis: global commodity chain and global city research. In the former, the world-systems analysis legacy is direct. Departing from the insight that the unit of analysis is a key strategic research decision, Hopkins and Wallerstein conceptualized the world-economy as cross-border, firm-based transactions rather than as inter-state transactions. They “invented the term ‘commodity chains’ to underline a basic process of capitalism: that it involved linked production processes that had always crossed multiple frontiers and that had always contained within them multiple nodes of controlling labor. Further, we believed that a close study of such chains would indicate how and why surplus-value was distributed among its appropriators, and hence explain how the system of ‘unequal exchange’ worked in practice” (Wallerstein 2000: 221).