Working Paper | August 30, 2018

From Commodity Chains to Value Chains: Interdisciplinary Theory Building in an Age of Globalization

Recent changes in the global economy, especially the rise of East Asia as an economic force, have rendered static notions of permanent dependency and underdevelopment obsolete. Regions, countries, and individual localities can improve their relative position in the global economy. The much-debated question is: how? Sound macroeconomic policy, sectorspecific industrial development policies, technological borrowing, and firm-level responses to the demands of overseas buyers have all been put forward as explanations and prescriptions for rapid industrial upgrading and economic development in East Asia and elsewhere. Proponents of these different views have debated each other to a standstill, or have simply chosen to talk past each other. Could it be that there is no single explanation for why places advance, or fail to advance in the global economy, and that unitary explanations will always fall short?