Proposal preview

Capitalism’s transformation in the 20th century: the disintegration and differentiation of global value-chains.

The 20th century saw a far reaching and lasting transformation of capitalist production processes: In contrast to the 19th century, when production concentrated in few global centres, particularly so in the non-agricultural and services sector, global divisions of labour ramified over the course of the 20th century. Production now more often spanned two or more countries. Arguably, this differentiation attained a new quality in recent decades, which coincided with the rise to prominence of concepts such “globalization”, “neoliberalism”, and “global production networks” across the social sciences and humanities. Economic history dealt with this transformation mainly as a phenomenon of decreasing transport and organisational costs after the micro-electronic revolution and container shipping. To our opinion such an interpretation falls short and does not cover the huge structural transformation of capitalist production that started much earlier. We suggest that the global differentiation and in some cases the disintegration of production processes cannot entirely be explained as an effect of new transport facilities and should also not entirely be attributed to shifts in the regulatory framework of the world economy. Instead, we propose to treat this as an organisational transformation in its own right. We want to make use of value-chain and production network approaches that have been successfully applied in a variety of the social sciences, but only to minor extend in economic history so far.
Production in the 20th century was increasingly organized in hierarchical networks, cut into ever smaller steps that facilitated value extraction at nodal points of dynamic global value chains. Value-chain-management became a fashion in Management Science by the end of the 20th century, preparing business students for optimizing not only the technical foundation of a global production process but even more so teaching them to navigate the volatile mixture of state regulations, financial opportunities and competing nations offering incentives for production relocation. We suggest that the current shape of global production is the latest stage of capitalism’s organisational transformation that started in the late 19th century.
The session will assemble a range of case-study based contributions discussing the following questions: Can we discover patterns and time-periods of value-chain transformation over the course of the 20th century? And, if so, how does such differentiation articulate in regard to individual countries, regions and products? What were the main drivers of differentiation, globally and regionally – technology (including standardisation), trade-regulation, or ideologies? Which actors and institutions ‘drove’ the transformation – corporations (national or multinational) in manufacturing, finance, or other services? And, last but not least, who profited from the global differentiation of production and where was the added value accumulated over time?

Organizer(s)

  • Jan-Otmar Hesse, University of Bayreuth, jan-otmar.hesse@uni-bayreuth.de - Germany
  • Patrick Neveling, University of Bergen, patrick.neveling@gmail.com - Norway/ UK

Session members

  • Jennifer Bair, University of Virgina
  • Keisuke Nishi, University of the Ryukyus
  • Ray Stokes, University of Glasgow
  • Laura Rischbieter, University of Konstanz

Discussant(s)

  • Teresa da Silva Lopes, York Management School, University of York, teresa.lopes@york.ac.uk

Papers

Panel abstract

The increasing division of labour on a global level is an important feature of the transformation of capitalism in the 20th century. Economic history often tends to ignore this aspect, approaching globalisation processes from a national perspective. The panel aims at connecting the knowledge from social sciences, anthropology and history to better understand capitalism's transformation. It uses case-studies form different branches and countries to find common patterns and periods of the disintegration of production.

1st half

The value-chain approach in historical research: Introduction

Jan-Otmar Hesse, Patrick Neveling

The introduction will give an overview over recent debates on capitalism, transformation of production and globalization.

The introduction will give an overview over recent debates on capitalism, transformation of production and globalization.

Value-chains as research field in the social sciences

Jenifer Bair

The talk will give an overview over the debates on the governing of global value-chains in the social sciences and current aspects of value-chain management.

The talk will give an overview over the debates on the governing of global value-chains in the social sciences and current aspects of value-chain management.

Globalization of Bicycle Production from 1890 to 1930

Keisuke Nishi

When the first bicycle boom in the USA came to an end in the 1890s, oversupplied bicycles were exported to Europe. This inflow to Europe triggered the decline of bicycle price there and the deterioration of profitability on bicycle production. German bicycle producers could get out of this difficulty with the introduction of American machine tools. From the turn of the 20th century, together with England. Germany became one of the main bicycle production country in the world. In Japan, the cycle parts import from Germany increased before WW1. But, Japanese bicycle parts export to Asia increased already in the 1920s. I will explain this globalization of bicycle production in which the center shifted from USA and England to Germany (continental Europe) and Japan (Asia) with a new recombination of global value chain.

When the first bicycle boom in the USA came to an end in the 1890s, oversupplied bicycles were exported to Europe. This inflow to Europe triggered the decline of bicycle price there and the deterioration of profitability on bicycle production. German bicycle producers could get out of this difficulty with the introduction of American machine tools. From the turn of the 20th century, together with England. Germany became one of the main bicycle production country in the world. In Japan, the cycle parts import from Germany increased before WW1. But, Japanese bicycle parts export to Asia increased already in the 1920s. I will explain this globalization of bicycle production in which the center shifted from USA and England to Germany (continental Europe) and Japan (Asia) with a new recombination of global value chain.

Mastering ‘global hopping’: The German textile industry after World War II

Jan-Otmar Hesse

As for other countries, textile and apparel production in Germany is considered a victim of globalisation. Domestic production and employment declined dramatically after its post-war peak in the late 1950s. Research often has attributed this trajectory among other factors to the liberalisation policy of the German government. In contrast, the talk will argue, the German industry applied outward-processing strategies comparatively early and managed to succeed as one of the world’s largest textile exporters until the 1990s. The industrial transformation the country experienced – in textiles and apparel as well as in many other industries – can only be understood when analysing the global value chains that the German corporations learned to govern.

As for other countries, textile and apparel production in Germany is considered a victim of globalisation. Domestic production and employment declined dramatically after its post-war peak in the late 1950s. Research often has attributed this trajectory among other factors to the liberalisation policy of the German government. In contrast, the talk will argue, the German industry applied outward-processing strategies comparatively early and managed to succeed as one of the world’s largest textile exporters until the 1990s. The industrial transformation the country experienced – in textiles and apparel as well as in many other industries – can only be understood when analysing the global value chains that the German corporations learned to govern.

2nd half

How capitalism changes. Plantations, sweatshops and other global production regimes in the long 20th century

Patrick Neveling

This paper proposes to analyse fundamental changes in the global organisation of capitalist exploitation through the lens of a global production regimes approach. The argument focuses on two production regimes that were fundamental in the development of capitalism in the 20th century. The paper compares the global plantation complex of the period up to the 1970s with the sweatshops that emerged in the garment industry centres of industrialised nations at the beginning of the 1900s and that are today central to the production regimes in more than 4,000 special economic zones with more than 100million workers catering for the global light-consumer electronics and garment sector. The focus is on the changing global (dis-)integration and differentiation of these two global production regimes via multilateral trading agreements, international transport, and on the competition between a Fordist/Keynesian and a post-Fordist/neoliberal mode of regulating capitalist exploitation in factory regimes and on the scales of...

This paper proposes to analyse fundamental changes in the global organisation of capitalist exploitation through the lens of a global production regimes approach. The argument focuses on two production regimes that were fundamental in the development of capitalism in the 20th century. The paper compares the global plantation complex of the period up to the 1970s with the sweatshops that emerged in the garment industry centres of industrialised nations at the beginning of the 1900s and that are today central to the production regimes in more than 4,000 special economic zones with more than 100million workers catering for the global light-consumer electronics and garment sector. The focus is on the changing global (dis-)integration and differentiation of these two global production regimes via multilateral trading agreements, international transport, and on the competition between a Fordist/Keynesian and a post-Fordist/neoliberal mode of regulating capitalist exploitation in factory regimes and on the scales of colonial, national, and international economies. The paper shows that a focus on global production regimes can provide a bracket for global, economic, social and political history research on the changing manifestations of capitalism in the 20th century.

Catch Me If You Can! Sovereign Debt Markets in Turbulent Times 1975-1980

Laura Rischbieter

The political economy of the evolution of global value chains in the oil industry in the 20th century

Ray Stokes

From its outset in the late 19th century, the oil industry has been highly internationalized, highly politicized, oligopolistic, and characterized by an asymmetry between those nations that have oil resources and those that use them. These have remained salient general characteristics of the industry through the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Nevertheless, there have been profound changes during this period in the ways in which these characteristics have manifested themselves. The global value chains approach enables us not only to highlight the changes themselves, but also to analyze the processes through which they took place.

From its outset in the late 19th century, the oil industry has been highly internationalized, highly politicized, oligopolistic, and characterized by an asymmetry between those nations that have oil resources and those that use them. These have remained salient general characteristics of the industry through the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Nevertheless, there have been profound changes during this period in the ways in which these characteristics have manifested themselves. The global value chains approach enables us not only to highlight the changes themselves, but also to analyze the processes through which they took place.