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The Political Economy of State Governance in Global Production Networks: Change, Crisis and Contestation in the South African Fruit Sector

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Matthew Alford, Nicola Phillips

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-121
Issue number1
Early online date28 Jan 2018
Accepted/In press6 Dec 2017
E-pub ahead of print28 Jan 2018
PublishedJan 2018


King's Authors


Within the global value chain (GVC) and global production network (GPN) literatures, one of the most vibrant areas of debate focuses on dynamics of governance. However, the evolution of these debates has been underpinned by a persistent firm-centrism, with insufficient attention paid to states, public authority and politics. Building on a renewed interest in these themes in the recent literature, we contribute to a growing demand for a more robust political economy of governance in GVC/GPN debates, wherein the key governance functions of the state can be classified as facilitative, regulatory and distributive in nature. In this context, we explore how the politics of state governance play out in the South African fruit sector, and particularly focus on the labour crisis that occurred in 2012/13. Our analysis underscores the centrality of the state in governing GVCs/GPNs, and highlights important tensions within and across the three arenas of state governance, and between public and private governance, with significant developmental implications for local actors operating at the base of GVCs/GPNs. Our findings point to the importance of a ‘relational’ understanding of state governance, which reveals how the dynamics of state governance are shaped both by continual political contestation and by the competitive commercial context of GVCs/GPNs.

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