Power, governance and distributional skew in global value chains: Exchange theoretic and exogenous factors

Jennifer Bair, Matthew C Mahutga
DOI number

#Trade and FDI
#Corporate responsibility and lead firms

The relationship between power, governance and value creation/capture is a central concern in global value chain (GVC) research. In the context of calls to develop a more expansive view of power in GVCs, we argue for retaining a focus on bargaining power, but shifting the conceptualization of bargaining power from the dyad to the network. We advance two arguments. First, we elaborate an exchange theoretic model in which skew of value capture is a function of the degree of power asymmetry inherent in the ratio of buyers to suppliers. Second, we explain how this model can be expanded to consider the role of external factors, such as the institutional and normative contexts in which exchange occurs. Rather than see these factors as contending forms of power, we treat them as forces that can affect value skew by either attenuating the bargaining power of lead firms or by moderating the distributional effects of power asymmetries between exchange partners. We conclude that an exchange theoretic approach to bargaining power in GVCs provides a parsimonious framework for explaining how inter-firm governance shapes the distribution of value capture in global production.


Jennifer Bair

University of Virginia

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