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Neil M. Coe

National University of Singapore

Neil M. Coe is Professor of Economic Geography at the Department of Geography and Co-Director of the Global Production Networks Centre (GPN@NUS) at the National University of Singapore. His research interests are in the areas of global production networks and local economic development; the geographies of local and transnational labour markets; the geographies of innovation; and institutional and network approaches to economic development. These concerns have been explored through empirical research into computer services, temporary staffing and logistics in the UK, Europe and Asia Pacific, the film and television industry in the UK and Canada, and retailing in the UK, East Asia and Eastern Europe.
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publication
Logistical geographies

Although logistics are fundamentally geographical and of critical importance to contemporary society, it is only relatively recently that human geographers and cognate social scientists have started to meaningfully engage with the topic. This paper explores this recent growth of interest, which encompasses the work of transport geographers, economic geographers, labour geographers, mobilities scholars and critical logistics scholars. It synthesises, reviews and evaluates this research around four themes: logistics, cities and regional development; logistics and global production networks; logistics labour; and infrastructure, power and violence. These themes are presented in the loose order in which they have emerged in the literature; while these topics have originated in particular sub‐disciplines, important conversations are now starting to emerge between different kinds of scholars both within and across these themes. These conversations have also increasingly connected geographers into vibrant interdisciplinary debates involving researchers from political science, sociology, anthropology, labour studies, and architecture and planning, among others.

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publication
Multistakeholder initiatives in global production networks: naturalizing specific understandings of sustainability through the Better Cotton Initiative

In recent years, various academics, consultants, companies and NGOs have advocated a move towards more cooperative approaches to private sustainability standards to address the widely identified shortcomings of the compliance paradigm. However, is it possible to address these limitations by moving towards stakeholder inclusion and capacity building while at the same time catering to the demands of lead firms supplying the mainstream market? In this article, we analyse how the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) seeks to do just that, in the process identifying three key tensions and competing policy concerns with which standard‐setters have had to grapple – (a) stakeholder inclusion vs process‐control/efficiency; (b) stringency of the standard vs scale of production; and (c) capacity building vs auditing. Combining theoretical considerations about governance in global production networks (GPNs) with a convention theory perspective, we explore these inherent tensions and show that due to pre‐existing power relations in the cotton GPN, it is hard to develop more cooperative approaches because market and industrial values tend to win out despite efforts to follow current best practice on sustainability standard‐setting.

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publication
Global production networks: mapping recent conceptual developments

In this framing paper for the special issue, we map significant research on global production networks during the past decade in economic geography and adjacent fields. In line with the core aim of the special issue to push for new conceptual advances, the paper focuses on the central elements of GPN theory to showcase recent rethinking related to the delimiting of global production networks, underlying political-economic drivers, actor-specific strategies and regional/national development outcomes. We suggest that the analytical purchase of this recent work is greater in research that has continued to keep a tight focus on the causal links between the organizational configurations of global production networks and uneven development. Concomitantly, considerable effort in the literature has gone into expanding the remit of GPN research in different directions, and we thus engage with five domains or ‘constituent outsides’ that relate to the state, finance, labour, environment and development. We believe such cross-domain fertilisation can help realize GPN 2.0’s potential for explaining uneven development in an interconnected world economy.

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