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Outsourcing governance: states and the politics of a ‘global value chain world’

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Frederick W. Mayer, Nicola Phillips

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-152
Issue number2
Early online date4 Jan 2017
Accepted/In press14 Dec 2016
E-pub ahead of print4 Jan 2017
Published4 Mar 2017


King's Authors


Politics, and by extension states, are marginal in debates about the genesis, evolution and functioning of the global value chain (GVC)-based global economy. We contend here that the core complexity of state agency and state power needs to be much more carefully understood in GVC and related debates, as a basis on which the governance of the evolving GVC world can be properly theorised as revolving around the inseparability of economic and political power. We advance a framework for understanding the role of politics and states in the construction and maintenance of a GVC world, using a three-fold typology of facilitative, regulatory and distributive forms of governance, and propose a notion of ‘outsourcing governance’ as an attempt to capture the ways in which states purposefully, through active political agency, have engaged in a process of delegating a variety of governance functions and authority to private actors. Our overarching argument is normative: ‘outsourced governance’ of the form we currently observe is associated with regressive distributional outcomes, and is antithetical to an inclusive and sustainable global economy.

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