Natural resource industries as global value chains: Frontiers, fetishism, labour and the state
Environment and Planning A
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Despite thirty years of research on global value chains (GVCs), the appropriation of nature in general and natural resource industries in particular remain marginal both theoretically and empirically. There is a parallel ecological deficit in labour process theory and a lack of applied research on natural resource industries. But since historical capitalism is based on the expanding appropriation and transformation of nature by labour, these lacunae must be redressed. Contributing to an emerging body of work in environmental economic geography and the international political economy of the environment, this article theorises GVCs through the lens of the circuit of capital as a tool to unravel some distinctive features of natural resources industries. We propose a framework for the study of natural resource industries as GVCs based on five propositions (a) commodity frontier theory, (b) the fetishism of natural resources, (c) the socio-ecological indeterminacy of the labour process, (d) distance and durability in the production of time, and (e) the contingency of the capitalist state in (re)producing GVCs. While far from exhaustive, we argue that this original synthetic framework provides the crucial bases for a research agenda on GVCs in natural resources.