» Archive for: January, 2014

Value in Motion

Category: Events

28 Jan 2014

CIRI would like to invite you to the seminar with the titleValue in Motion: Labour and logistics in the contemporary political economy’ by Dr Kirsty Newsome from University of Strathclyde.

When: Thursday 30 January, 12-14 hrs
Where: ISS, room 4.01

A much cited quote from Wal-Mart’s leadership to Wall Street analysts states, ‘The misconception is that we’re in the retail business, we’re in the distribution business’. Distribution, according to the classical Marxist perspective, was deemed unproductive labour, providing the necessary movement in the circuit of capital.  Recent debates have recognised that increasingly complex global value chains are predicated upon a concomitant logistics network.  This paper sheds new light on the critical role of retail logistics and distribution in the contemporary political economy. Adopting the notion of ‘value in motion’ its’ aim is two-fold. Firstly it explores the critical role of retail distribution in contributing to ‘value creation’ within overall production networks.  Secondly it will examine how the struggle between logistic companies and retailers for ‘value capture’ impacts upon the labour process.  To explore this theoretical territory and provide an empirical analysis of the critical role of logistics the article will draw on research evidence from UK grocery distribution and warehousing. The theoretical insights that can be gained from re-integrating labour within the articulated relations between production, distribution and exchange will be developed.  The paper thus aims to contribute to debates concerned with connecting the hitherto disconnected relations between labour process change and wider global value chains analysis.

The presentation of Kirsty Newsome may be find here.


An opportunity for South African Nationals aspiring in doing their PhD at the ISS: 36-month scholarships available to South African applicants as part of Erasmus Mundus sponsored EUSA-ID programme

ISS is part of the Erasmus Mundus-sponsored EUSA-ID programme, which offers study, training and research periods in Europe for South African Master and PhD candidates and staff and provides European PhD candidates the opportunity to spend a research period in South Africa. As part of the programme, ISS offers scholarships to South African applicants to the ISS PhD programme.

How to apply?

Applications for the 36-month scholarship can be submitted until 28 February 2014.

Information on the EUSA-ID programme can be found at the EUSA-ID website

See for more information:

More specific information can be obtained from Professor Wil Hout at hout@iss.nl.

cooperation_kenyaOn Wednesday 8 January, ISS Rector Professor Leo de Haan and Professor Richard Mibey, Vice Chancellor of MOI University, Eldoret Kenya, signed a Memorandum of Understanding identifying areas of collaboration between the two Institutions in order to cooperate in research and training.

The MoU will lead to further cooperation in development and related sciences, in particular PhD training, research, teaching and high social impact outreach activities.

More information at the MOI University website.

CIRI would like to invite you to the first CIRI seminar of the year 2014 with the titleVoluntary Initiatives in Global Value Chains: Towards Labour-led Social Upgrading?’ presented by CIRI member Dr. Karin Astrid Siegmann.

The venue will at the ISS, Tuesday 14th January 2014, 13-14 hrs, room 339.


The organisation of production in global value chains (GVCs) has been accompanied by a rise of informal and insecure work. Yet, the role of labour agency has received scant attention in the GVC and related literatures. Selwyn (2013) therefore demands to shift attention towards engagement with labour movements to identify what he terms ‘labour-led’ social upgrading.

We engage with this plea by investigating the role of voluntary initiatives (VIs) as non-governmental systems of labor regulation in GVCs. The paper asks under which conditions VIs with a more active role for labour emerge in GVCs. In order to answer this question, we apply Wright’s (2000) theory of the factors enabling positive class compromise to a VI that has been implemented in the Indonesian sportswear industry: In June 2011, a Protocol on Freedom of Association (FoA) was signed by Indonesian trade unions, large Indonesian manufacturers and major multinational brands.

Based on the analysis of this case, we show that, while the spatial dispersion of production has weakened state mechanisms for the guarantee of labour rights, new pressure points for labour have also emerged, e.g. brands’ reputation or just-in-time production. Besides, new possibilities for transnational labour networks have opened that strengthen workers’ associational power. Moreover, GVCs fragment capital in different factions, such as producers and brands. Their material concerns are not necessarily congruent. Workers’ movements might be able to benefit from such divergent interests. We conclude that if VIs are to create conditions under which decent work can be strengthened, the involvement and strength of local labour organisations is required and producers’ and/or buyers’ dependence on workers’ cooperation may act as a catalyst.

International Institute of Social Studies

CIRI aims to scale up and identify synergies between existing research at ISS on civic agency and change agents, as drivers of societal change and development. This blog is a forum on which to share and discuss themes and issues which fall within the broad framework of the programme.

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