The extent and structure of global production of consumer goods, raw materials and food have changed dramatically in the past three decades, with far reaching consequences.  Some scholars have argued that this globalization of production directly undermines the role of nation-states and the capacity of citizens for democratic governance: footloose firms have tremendous power vis-à-vis local and national governments.  But scholars increasingly find that global production also has spawned new types of rule-making projects and notions of accountability, and sometimes even upward trajectories of regulation.  Political scientists, sociologists, geographers, anthropologists, legal scholars, historians, and business scholars have all contributed to a growing literature on the character of these rule-making projects and regulatory trajectories.

Existing research highlights several relevant processes.  Large firms, NGOs, and other private actors have taken on regulatory roles.  Retailers and branded firms have adopted codes of conduct and sustainable sourcing policies, some of which have evolved into elaborate systems of reporting, auditing, or certification organized through multi-stakeholder associations that include NGOs.  The expansion of supply chains has created new openings for activism or standardization.  Trade and investment flows have carried norms about labor rights, environmental protection, and equal opportunity to a variety of locations.  At the same time, these processes often are highly uneven, contested, and ambiguous in their ultimate results.  In addition, scholars have moved from heralding the “decline of the state” to recognizing that new forms of governance and regulation coexist with more traditional, state-centered forms.  Public authority has been reconfigured, rather than simply retrenched.  In some circumstances, globalization has brought about an expansion of regulatory agendas, through experimentation with new modes of governance, networking across national regulatory systems, or the emergence of more vigorous domestic contention and reform efforts.  Furthermore, in the midst of economic liberalization, one observes a resurgence of state intervention through import restrictions in some safety and environmental domains and enhanced government labor regulation and inspection in some regions.

While existing research on private governance and on public regulatory reform addresses some of the consequences of global production chains, this research has only begun to answer a number of questions.  What factors make different types of public or private efforts effective?  How is the potential for governance shaped by variations among sectors or supply chains, issue and policy domains, national settings, as well as by the strategic choices of key actors?  How do private and public forms of governance coevolve or intersect?  How can we understand not just the proximate consequences of new rule-making projects but also their subtle and slow-moving effects?

We invite proposals that address these questions through research on firms and supply chains, public or private regulatory bodies, auditors and inspectors, NGOs and transnational advocacy networks, expressions of individual or collective rights, or combinations of these foci.  While existing research has often focused solely on de jure (“on the books”) outcomes, we hope the next generation of work will also examine outcomes on the ground, in sites around the world.  A variety of methodological approaches and substantive cases can contribute to this endeavor, from ethnographic observation of particular sites to archival research on historical processes to the collection of new quantitative datasets on supply chains, firms, or other relevant organizations.

Spring workshop: May 30-June 3, 2012 in Chaska, Minnesota
Fall workshop: September 12-16, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


  • Tatiana Samay Andia Rey

    Brown University, Sociology

    Equivalent or similar? The Globalization of Pharmaceutical Regulatory Standards and the Politics of Generic Drugs
    My dissertation research focuses on the politics of how international regulatory standards for the domestic approval of generic drugs have emerged, evolved, and 'traveled' since the 1980s. Traditionally, generic drugs have had to demonstrate "bioequivalence"—i.e. prove that they are identical to the pioneer drug—which allows generic companies to rely on the pioneer drug's clinical trials. However, with the recent rise of biotech drugs, a more demanding standard called "biosimilarity" has emerged. This new standard would force follow-on versions of a pioneer biotech drug to undertake their own clinical trials. This would ostensibly increase the production costs of biotech generics, shutting out most generic producers and making biotech pharmaceuticals unaffordable. Using the cases of "bioequivalence" and "biosimilarity" standards, my research will explore three main questions: (1) how are global pharmaceutical regulatory standards produced? (2) Who are the actors involved and what are their roles in the emergence and diffusion of these standards? And (3) how do these standards actually travel and are implemented considering countries' divergent regulatory capacities and public health and industrial goals? To address these questions, I will use a variety of qualitative methods: archival research at the World Health Organization (WHO) and national regulatory agencies; interviews with pharmaceutical industry representatives, leading physicians, pharmacologists, and access to medicines activists; and ethnographic observation of two regulatory agencies—Brazil's ANVISA, and Colombia's INVIMA.
  • Abigail E. Bennett

    Duke University, Marine Science

    Linking Global Factors and Local Institutional Diversity: Responses of Small-Scale Fisheries to Globilization
    The vast majority of global fisheries employment is from the small-scale fisheries sector. Despite their global importance, little attention has been paid to the relationship between these fisheries and global governance processes. Perhaps this is because small-scale fisheries are often thought of as subsistence systems or as suppliers only of local markets. Increasingly, however, international markets are reaching small-scale seafood producers, incorporating them into global supply chains. Research on small-scale fisheries tends to focus on understanding the institutions - the strategies, norms, and rules that structure and constrain repeated human interaction among groups of individuals and between individuals and the biophysical world - that determine how these systems are governed. However, this research rarely examines the links that exist between institutions at the local level and global-level factors such as export markets and foreign NGOs. In order to better understand how global seafood production is governed in the context of small-scale fisheries, this research will address the general question, "How does increasing engagement with global supply chains reshape existing local institutions for small-scale fisheries governance and/or forge new ones?" through a multi-scale, multi-level examination of small-scale fisheries governance institutions in Yucatán, México.
  • James J. A. Blair

    City University of New York (CUNY) / Graduate Center, Anthropology

    Managing the Self-Managed: The Integration of Worker-Owned Cooperative Factories into Ethical Supply Chains in Post-Crisis Argentina
    Is the object of fair trade to redistribute profit back to workers, or to provide incentives for making the behavior of producers meet the moral standards of geographically-distant consumers? Are these goals incommensurable? This project analyzes the integration of worker-owned cooperative factories into ethical supply chains in post-crisis Argentina. Focusing on the recuperated factories (empresas recuperadas) that continued to produce as cooperatives after their former owners abandoned their businesses in the wake of economic crisis in 2001, I examine how their profit is redistributed differently when they accept funding streams geared toward social enterprises. Because cooperatives are generally poor of capital, several of the recuperated factories have partnered with non-profit organizations who serve as intermediaries with North American foundations and the state to subsidize production of fair trade-certified goods. With an ethnographic account not only of the factory workers involved, but also of these intermediaries, I offer a window onto how participation in ethical supply chains complicates the principles of self-managed work. The recuperated factory movement seems to have given control over working conditions back to producers, themselves, but an anthropological study of how their intermediaries perform audits may reveal a clash of alternative forms of governance.
  • Caitlin Rose Fox-Hodess

    University of California / Berkeley, Sociology

    Strategies for Building Structural Power in the 21st Century International Port Industry: A Comparison of the International Dockworkers Council (IDC) and the Dockers Section of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF)
    My research proposes to examine how workers themselves, through their labor unions, might exert a form of global governance by withholding their labor at key points in the process of circulation of capital and commodities. Through research on the International Dockworkers Council (IDC) and the Dockers Section of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), I will examine the relationship between their divergent organizational structures and politics and their effectiveness in promoting upward trajectories of labor regulation and social protection for workers under global neoliberalism. The initial stage of my research will consist of interviews and archival work at the IDC headquarters in Barcelona with a focus on creating a chronology of the organization's history, forming a better understanding of the IDC's organizational structure and politics and evaluating its success at exerting dockworkers' structural power in labor disputes. I will then select comparative case studies of transnational and national campaigns run by the IDC and the ITF in Europe, North America and Latin America for my dissertation. Through these comparative case studies, I will evaluate the costs and benefits of the divergent IDC and ITF organizational models and politics in terms of successfully utilizing dockworkers' structural power in the global economy.
  • Nikhar Gaikwad

    Yale University, Political Science

    Political Coalitions and Economic Governance in Emerging Economies
    As developing countries play a larger role in global production, it becomes increasingly important for us to understand how domestic actors influence economic governance within these polities. I explore the role of societal coalitions in shaping trade policymaking and trade standards in emerging economies with democratic political systems. In particular, I compare regulatory dynamics in India and Brazil, two nations where politicians simultaneously liberalized trade tariffs, privatized state-owned enterprises, and transformed their economic policy environments while standing for reelection. These regulatory transformations enormously impacted welfare standards and reshaped the global economy yet their political determinants are not well understood. I argue that standard theories of economic interests and trade regulation fail to adequately explain regulatory dynamics because they underappreciate the role of identity politics in the electoral arena. Therefor I study how economic preferences interact with ethnic cleavages to affect trade policies and standards. After identifying the regulatory preferences and social cleavages of actors in different industries in India, I investigate the relationship between industry preferences, ethnic fragmentation and regulatory outcomes at both the state- and firm-level. I then subject my theory to a stricter test by studying its carrying power in Brazil, where identity politics are less salient, yet nonetheless consequential.
  • Anne Regan Greenleaf

    University of Washington, Political Science

    From Apple to Apparel: Realizing Labor Rights in Non-Democracies
    The recent media attention to labor rights conditions at Apple subcontractor Foxconn's plant in China is one example of the growing interest in labor rights and global supply chains. This interest reinforces the relevance of the scholarship in this subfield, particularly in non-democratic regimes. The adoption of legal norms such as the ILO core labor standards, even in non-democratic states, is a positive step towards enhancing labor rights for vulnerable workers. However, good labor laws have been implemented in different ways, resulting in very different labor rights outcomes. Understanding this variation and the domestic institutions and actors that shape these outcomes is important both for scholarship on law and society in authoritarian regimes as well as for better policy recommendations. Using China and Honduras as case studies and qualitative research methods such as open ended interviewing and participant observation, my research will examine why regulatory institutions seem to provide more opportunities for women workers to secure better workplace conditions in the apparel sector in China than in Honduras, despite similar conditions of civil society repression. My research will focus on the strategies women workers use to shape domestic institutions, both formally through legal action and informally through social resistance tactics.
  • Maron Greenleaf

    Stanford University, Anthropology

    A Non-Extractive Economy: Buying and Selling Carbon in Acre, Brazil
    Acre, the Brazilian state known for the 1988 murder of activist Chico Mendes and the frontier dynamics of environmental extraction and social dislocation against which he fought, is poised to become a non-extractive frontier: in 2010, Acre adopted a robust system for producing forest-related carbon commodities and providing carbon sequestering services to meet global demand. The government pays people to store carbon by reducing deforestation, turns these reductions into carbon offsets, and sells them to outside polluters. This system is part of an international effort to mitigate climate change by financing reductions in emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). But while Acre's system is part of this global effort, it will both shape and be shaped by Acre itself. This project explores REDD's local political and social effects, as well as how Acre's history of violence and social movements shapes the production of new non-extractive commodities there. Using ethnographic methods, it asks what sorts of governance, expert knowledge, and political processes REDD engenders in Acre, challenging conceptions of market-based governance as inherently antithetical to political engagement and state-based regulation. In so doing, it explores some of the political and social possibilities enabled by emergent forms of production and governance.
  • Miles Kenney-Lazar

    Clark University, Geography

    Financialized Global Land Acquisitions and Resource Commodity Production in Laos
    My dissertation research focuses on the national and local manifestations of global networks of financialized resource commodity production and land acquisitions. Following the 2007-08 food and financial crises, a wide range of transnational investors acquired vast tracts of land across the Global South for resource commodity production, often displacing smallholding farmers in the process. In Laos, the state has conceded large amounts of land to foreign investors for mining, hydropower, and agricultural plantation projects with exclusionary impacts upon land users. My research asks three central research questions. First, how and why are transnational investors acquiring and transforming resource-productive land into an investment class and financial asset? Second, how does the political economic and regulatory relationship between the Lao state and foreign investors impact how land is acquired? Third, how does state regulation affect the way in which acquisitions impact the livelihoods of local land users? These questions will be investigated by both collecting policy and project investment documents and conducting semi-structured interviews with Lao government officials, foreign investors in Laos, and impacted local land users. Documents will be analyzed using content and discourse analysis while interview data will be analyzed through methods of coding and recursive abstraction.
  • Shana M. Starobin

    Duke University, Environmental Science and Public Policy

    Public Goods, Private Benefit?: Eco-Labels, Third Party Certification, and Advancing Rural Livelihoods in the Global South
    Independent third-party certification has been hailed as an industry "best practice" and a remedy to persistent credibility problems faced by producers in global production systems —otherwise reliant on self-declarations about unobservable and un-testable attributes of their products. Closer inspection, however, suggests that many third-party certifiers may lack credibility and that certification may not offer producers the portal to global markets and high premiums they so desire. Analyses of schemes like Fair Trade and Organic—often perceived to improve producer access to markets, information and enhanced economic benefits–reveal mixed results. A chasm is emerging between the interests of retailers, organizations, and consumers in the Global North—often the primary architects of international standards and certification schemes—and those of producers in the Global South—the targets of certification. Rather than engaging with the global marketplace via imported schemes and private rules devised to benefit large multinational corporations, some producers are opting out. Original empirical cases from Nicaragua and Guatemala will be used to examine key research questions: Under what conditions do small shareholder producers opt out of voluntary regulatory schemes? What explains the emergence of alternative institutions for advancing the livelihoods of rural small holder producers in developing countries?
  • Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld

    University of California / San Diego, Political Science

    Delegating Sovereignty: Non-State Actors in International Relations
    What does the sudden spread of bilateral investment treaties (BITs) tell us about state sovereignty in international relations? Bilateral investment treaties give firms and individual investors the prerogative to initiate dispute settlement proceedings against a state in an international forum. Allowing non-state actors to extract concessions from states creates new channels and tools through which sovereignty is challenged. My research will help scholars understand exactly who takes advantage of these treaties, how those actors use it, and how their use shapes international law and state sovereignty. The project analyzes data concerning who initiates disputes, characteristics of the initiators, and disputes' outcomes for its quantitative analysis. I will supplement this analysis in two ways. First, I will interview officials at the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, the main organization which handles disputes arising from BITs. Second, I will consult archival material to learn how private actors have shaped the United States of America's BIT program. This research will inform debates about the state and global production in political science, sociology, economics, and law.
  • Maja Tampe

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Institute of Work and Employment Research

    Private Governance as Sustainable Development? Field Experimental Evidence from Agricultural Certification in Ecuador
    Smallholder farmers in developing countries are one of the least likely groups to benefit from globalization. Yet, new private regulatory forms have emerged with the explicit goal to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. That is the promise made by certification labels such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ, and organic. These labels pledge to transfer a monetary premium to farmers, to build capacity, and to facilitate access to markets for farmers. In exchange, farmers follow good labor and environmentally friendly production practices. What sounds like a win-win approach may be complicated by two observations. First, evidence on the results of certification is highly ambiguous and suggests that certification is not sufficient to lift producers out of poverty. Second, success might be contingent on existing capacities of farmers and on the quality of external capacity-building. This raises an important question: Under what conditions do certification schemes effectively improve the quality of life and wellbeing of smallholder farmers? To test this, I propose to conduct a randomized field experiment with smallholder cocoa farmers in Ecuador. The experiment examines the effectiveness of additional capacity-building measures for improving development outcomes and is going to contribute to our understanding of the effectiveness of certification schemes.
  • Samantha A. Vortherms

    University of Wisconsin / Madison, Political Science

    Balancing Competing Interests: Local Policy Change and China's Hukou System
    Facing internal pressures to continue economic growth as well as external pressures to meet global labor standards, the Chinese central government has decentralized the reform process to avoid the risk of unsuccessful policies. Local governments have begun to experiment with reform to the hukou, or household registration system. Traditionally seen as a structural restriction creating labor market disequilibria, the hukou system creates two classes in the population, relegating migrants and rural populations to second class citizens in the cities they now live and work. Local and global forces determined to improve Chinese labor standards identify this structural constraint on the system as one of the root causes of poor labor conditions and the denial of socio-economic mobility for China's migrant labor. This research explores the process of change to the hukou as a means local interest representation. While there are no formal means of local interest representation at the municipal level, local problems are identified. How do local governments identify local problems and whose voices are heard in the policy process? How do local governments balance economic growth with the rising pressures from global and local groups to improve labor conditions by addressing structural inequalities?