Despite the importance today of global production networks in linking the international division of labour between the Global North and the Global South, the workers in such networks receive relatively little attention from those interested in the sociology of work. This study applies Glucksmann’s concept of ‘socio-economic formations of labour’ to understand global production networks as an instituted economic process that helps perpetuate an uneven global capitalism, and reveals a specific configuration of macro- and micro-scale labour formations in China’s garment sector. We argue that labour agency is a productive factor negotiating global production networks while under the constraints of capital and management. Taking a bottom–up perspective, socio-economic factors are found to give China’s garment workers significant power in various forms which – to a certain extent – shapes the multi-layered structure of garment global production networks. Workers’ power is conceptualised by sociological tools in order to substantiate the concept of abstract labour.
Bibliographical noteThe authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article: this study was substantially supported by an ESRC/DFID Joint Scheme for Research on International Development: Labour Conditions and the Working Poor in China and India (ESRC grant 2011–2015), and partly by an Early Career Scheme grant from Hong Kong’s Research Grants Council (Project no. 27610115).
- global production networks
- labour agency
- migrant labour
- workers’ power