THE POWER OF TRADE: UPGRADE-‐FOCUSED PREFIGURATIVE TRADING PROJECTS AS A TOOL FOR EQUALISING TRADE RELATIONS ACROSS COLONIAL DIVIDES
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To counteract the colonial division of labour and equalise trade relations across the global North and South, Global Value Chains (GVC) analysts have advocated value chain upgrade. Such upgrade would entail a much-‐needed financial improvement for Southern producers. Rather than turning to governments and IGOs, GVC analysts have generally addressed their policy suggestions to firms directly. There is an idea that firms can actively disentangle and disrupt prevalent hierarchies in their own activities. This thesis looks closer at prefigurative politics as a political strategy and asks: are prefigurative upgrade projects a successful tool for equalising trade relations across colonial divides? Can individual firms disentangle colonial inequalities in trade? As marxists and decolonial theorists have argued, global trade inequalities are about more than money: economic relations are inherently political. The 'value' in Global Value Chains should be understood not only as return on investment or profit, but also as something broader, a question of what makes a good life and a balanced division of work in society. GVC analysis has hitherto paid insufficient attention to these insights. As a remedy this thesis proposes the addition of a new concept to the GVC toolbox, voice' upgrade', i.e. an improvement of the ability of all actors in the chain to speak and listen about the political questions of value. Two case studies are used to ground the discussion: firstly, the trading of coffee from the Zapatistas in Mexico to Café Libertad in Germany. Secondly, the export of spice blends and sauces from the Western Cape of South Africa via the firm Turqle. These prefigurative projects both subvert and reproduce prevailing hierarchies. Importantly, while the former is possible,it requires deliberate facilitation.
AuthorsGradin, Sofia Persdotter
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