NSCPHD1077 Global Value Chains and Regional Development

Årgang 2014/2015
Engelsk titel

Global Value Chains and Regional Development


Subject area

The analysis of globalisation processes has been improved considerably by conceptualising inter-related processes at different scales within a framework delimited by a specific product or industry. Over the last decade two competing approaches have developed and crystallised, more or less along the lines of traditional scholarly disciplines. Advocates of the Global Value Chain (GVC) approach are primarily found among sociologists and political scientists whereas the Global Production Network (GPN) is patronised by geographers. The former is praised for its relatively simple conceptual apparatus and analytical procedures, which are constructed around the chain metaphor. It has gained increasing popularity among a wider audience (multilateral institutions, private consultancies, public administrations, business associations, non-governmental organisations, etc.) that now subscribes to the value of ‘doing value chain studies’. The latter has not achieved the same popularity outside a restricted constituency of geographers, perhaps because of its more complex and comprehensive set of conceptual components and the insistent ambition of specifically addressing issues concerning regional development. Surprisingly little (inter-disciplinary) effort has been invested in debates on methodological differences between the two approaches and empirical findings are not questioned even though they originate in different conceptual frameworks. In this sense, the two approaches have developed in peculiar segregation from each other, perhaps because of ‘vested’ disciplinary interests.



Scientific content

A pertinent research problem is how to connect recent theories on the dynamics of Global Value Chains (GVC) with regional development. At best, GVC analysis operates on a national scale but has little to say about the ways sub-national spaces and institutions interact with global chains that ‘touch-down’ in specific places. For example, the theoretical component of upgrading is primarily conceptualised as technical and organisational improvements of individual firms and more efficient coordination of value chains. Although recent research has started to focus on social upgrading, i.e. the consequences for workers of being incorporated in GVCs, ‘territorial upgrading’ or regional development has not been explored within the analytical approach.


The course will address the theoretical and methodological challenges involved in ‘spatializing’ the GVC approach. Is it possible to incorporate elements from the GPN approach and realign them with GVC analysis? Are both approaches too narrowly focussed on firms and corporate structures and therefor insufficiently developed to capture broader regional development patterns? Do we need to combine one or both of the product-based approaches with other theoretical entry points, for instance livelihood strategies? Do we have adequate methodologies to examine regional development from a chain/network perspective? How do we transform key insights in to policy recommendations?


These and other issues will be discussed on the basis of key note lectures, presentations by participants and group work. The course starts by constructing a common knowledge platform by reviewing the recent theoretical and empirical contributions within GVC and GPN analyses. This will form the basis for an active involvement of PhD students in the specific theoretical and methodological problems through various assignments: presenting and discussion of key contributions, drafting outlines for new research proposals, evaluating data collection techniques, etc.


Learning outcome

Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of recent contributions within GVC and GPN analysis
  • Outline the theoretical and methodological challenges involved in chain/network based analysis of regional development
  • Critically reflect on these challenges and their implications
  • Apply the theoretical and methodological insight to research proposal outlines
  • Demonstrate ability to outline valid and reliable data collection procedures for empirical studies

Assess the soundness of GVC/GPN-based policy recommendations on regional development.

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